Department, Liliesleaf Farm CEO of in squabble over funding for monument
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The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has lashed out at the founder of and CEO of Liliesleaf Trust, Nicholas Wolpe, for announcing the permanent closure of the country’s liberation monument and accusing the government of lack of support.
Liliesleaf Farm served as the secret headquarters and nerve centre of the ANC, SACP, Umkhonto we Sizwe and the Congress Alliance between 1961 and 1963.
The overthrow of the apartheid regime was discussed at Liliesleaf farm and leaders of the liberation movement took refuge there in their struggle for a non-racial, just, free, and democratic South Africa.
A police raid on July 11, 1963 saw the arrest of the core of the underground liberation movement leadership, which set in motion the infamous Rivonia Trial.
Post-apartheid, Liliesleaf was home to extraordinary exhibitions that told the story of the journey to democracy in South Africa.
On Wednesday, Wolpe released a statement announcing the permanent closure of Liliesleaf and said it demonstrated “the abject failure” of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to provide the financial support so desperately needed by the sector as a whole at this critical time.
However, department spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo said the department had funded Liliesleaf in the range of R70 million over a period of 13 years.
For the 2020/2021 financial year, an additional R1.8m was budgeted for the trust, he said.
“All this is being done against an understanding of the historical significance and contribution of Liliesleaf to the liberation of our country,” Khumalo said.
He said in 2015, the department entered into a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with Liliesleaf Trust to upgrade and enhance the facility’s exhibition infrastructure. Based on this contract of R9m, the first tranche of R8.1m was transferred to the trust, he said.
“The remaining R900 000 could not be honoured due to failure of Liliesleaf Trust to account on the initial payment of R8.1m. An obligation spelt out in the MoA between (the department) and Liliesleaf Trust. In terms of PFMA (Public Finance Management Act) Section 38, government cannot continue funding an institution that fails to account for public funds that it receives from government,” Khumalo said.
Consequently, the department, led by Minister Nathi Mthethwa, escalated the issue to the Liliesleaf board, led by former President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Khumalo said the board committed to do a forensic investigation into the matter and report back to the department but it was still awaiting feedback.
In addition, Khumalo said the Liliesleaf Trust was ineligible to receive yearly operational funds from the department since the site had not been designated a Declared Cultural Institution under the Cultural Institutions Act and a Schedule 3 A Public Entity under the PFMA.
Khumalo said a number of suggestions in this regard had been made by the government, but which “have not been found favourable by the trust”.
“However, they refused to be declared, preferring to remain independent and self-sufficient,” Khumalo said on behalf of the department.
*Request for comment from the CEO was made and will be included in the story once his response has been received.