Madiba 90

All set for Madiba's bday bash

2008-06-26 11:33

Special Report

Mandela: SA needs good leaders

Now as much as ever, South Africa needs disciplined leaders, Nelson Mandela has said at birthday celebration in Pretoria.

London - Nelson Mandela is due to celebrate his 90th birthday with a giant concert in London's Hyde Park on Friday in support of his Aids campaign.

Queen plus Paul Rodgers, Razorlight and Annie Lennox are among artists performing at the gig for the former South African president's 46664 campaign against HIV/Aids, to be broadcast around the globe.

All eyes are also likely to be on whether Mandela, now retired from public life, elaborates on his description of the "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe during the gig.

Those comments - his first in public ahead of Zimbabwe's run-off vote also being held on Friday - came during a celebrity fundraising birthday dinner in London on Wednesday.

Some demonstrators plan to protest outside the concert about Mandela's relative lack of comment on the unrest in Zimbabwe, though in his retirement he rarely speaks on southern African politics.

Stars

Other performers on the concert bill include Amy Winehouse, Simple Minds, Josh Groban, Joan Baez, Leona Lewis, the Sugababes, Andrea and Sharon Corr, Eddy Grant, Jamelia, Zucchero, South African artists and the Sudanese "war child" rapper Emmanuel Jal.

"When one retires, it means that you have time for birthdays," Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mandela said.

Precisely 46 664 tickets have gone on sale for the three-and-a-half-hour concert compèred by US actor Will Smith, which kicks off at 18:30.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and US actor Denzel Washington are among those due to attend.

"The reason why Mr Mandela is coming to this concert is that it is his way of saying thank-you to the British people for the Free Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley in 1988," a 46664 spokesperson told AFP.

"It's going to be a night with a mix of performers from the original concert 20 years ago and the new younger generation who wish to show their support for Mr Mandela."

5.41 million in SA with HIV

The 46664 campaign, named after Mandela's prison number during his 27-year incarceration for trying to topple South Africa's apartheid regime, aims to raise awareness of the HIV/Aids epidemic which is rife in sub-Saharan Africa.

South Africa is one of the countries worst-hit by HIV, with 5.41 million people living with the illness.

Mandela lost a son to Aids in January 2005 and has now made the fight against the pandemic his main cause.

"You all know that I am supposed to be retired," Mandela said.

"But my friends and the charitable organisations that bear my name want to use my 90th birthday year to raise funds to continue our work and so of course I want to help them.

"So, we have a bargain: I am going to London and they will host a concert in Hyde Park, which will raise awareness of our continuing work and much needed funds."

Mandela, who turns 90 on July 18, is now in frail health and has difficulty walking unaided.

Former Free frontman Paul Rodgers, who will be singing with Queen, said: "It's typical of the man's humility that on his birthday he should make this huge effort on behalf of other people."

Tickets for "The 46664 Concert Honouring Nelson Mandela at 90" cost £65 each.

'In fantastic form'

The first 46664 gig was held in Cape Town in 2003 and three others in South Africa, Madrid and Norway have been held since.

Troubled British soul singer Winehouse remains on the bill, despite recent hospital treatment for traces of emphysema.

"She was in fantastic form at the rehearsal a few days ago," said the 46664 spokesperson.

"Everyone is so thrilled and so excited to see Amy singing so well."

Mandela arrived in London on Monday and met Brown at his hotel and had an informal private audience with Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday, ahead of the fundraising dinner attended by world leaders and international stars.

Brown said in parliament on Wednesday: "He has been a true servant of Africa and of the world and his courage is unsurpassed in modern times."

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