THABANG MOKOPANELE

LILIESLEAF Farm, once a secret refuge for Nelson Mandela, will now be the site of a R75m boutique hotel, which is being developed by local hotel magnate and Mantis CEO Adrian Gardiner.

In 1961, Liliesleaf, which is in Rivonia, was purchased by Navain - a front company - for the South African Communist Party (SACP) and evolved into the headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe , the military wing of the African National Congress.

At the Liliesleaf Reunion in 2001, then president Thabo Mbeki announced the launch of the Liliesleaf Trust, which was established to restore and maintain the historical structures, buildings and legacy of the site.

A memorandum of understanding to develop, manage and market the new hotel has been signed with Liliesleaf Trust CEO Nicholas Wolpe, with construction scheduled to start in June.

"At the moment we are going through the process of obtaining approval of all plans.

"This iconic hotel will be two storeys high, with a total of 48 rooms in four blocks of 12," Gardiner said.

When the hotel opened next year, rates would range from R2000 to R4000 a room per night, he said.

The hotel is aimed at the business market, the tourist market as well as political markets.

Gardiner said each room would be themed around the Rivonia accused as well as Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich, who escaped from prison prior to the trial in 1963.

"This hotel will also include conference facilities, a spa, a business centre, restaurant and a wine cellar.

"It's imperative that any hotel design takes cognisance of the historical significance and ambience of this site."

Trust head Wolpe said it has always been the trust's objective to include an iconic hotel in the Liliesleaf Legacy Project.

mokopanelet@bdfm.co.za