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Supporting the Voicless: Mandela London Concert 2008

May 20, 2008
It is time once again for London to host another of Nelson Mandela global 46,664 concert. In June 2008 there will be a concert to celebrate Mandela's 90th birthday at Hyde Park, London. The significance of the concert is that the money raised will go a long way to help his charity for children with HIV/AIDS. Concerts have been held for Nelson Mandela at Wembley Stadium in 1988 and another in 1990 after Mr Mandela was released from prison. It may be recalled that in June 1988, the first Mandela concert was held at Wembley Stadium to press for his release from prison. Eurythmics, Sting, Whitney Houston, Simple Minds and Dire Straits were among the stars who performed at that event on 11 June 1988. The concert comes 20 years after the landmark spectacle at Wembley Stadium to call for his release from prison which also marked his 70th birthday.

So what is 46664? The 46664 ( fans and supporters often chant "four, double six, six four!" ) was Nelson Mandela's prison number when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, off Cape Town in South Africa. He was jailed in 1964 for 27 years for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his impassioned stance on the rights of everyone to live in freedom. He was prisoner number 466, imprisoned in 1964. The Robben Island prisoners were never referred to by their names, but rather by their numbers and year of imprisonment - hence 46664 was Nelson Mandela's number. It is now the name of his Aids support charity, which will get proceeds from the show.

The 46664 campaign began in 2003 when Mr Mandela realised that to reach the youth of the world he needed to engage the support of the people who most appeal to them. Using the power of music, sport and celebrity to educate and empower, supported by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, Annie Lennox and Bono.

Mandela is a great crowd-puller. In 2005, as many as 20,000 people who gathered at Trafalgar Square to listen to a speech on making poverty history by the iconic Mandela. He has had an almost fanatical support, support that is best reserved for entertainers but not usually politicians outside their constituencies. Before Mr Mandela's release from prison in 1990, Trafalgar Square was the scene of anti-apartheid demonstrations in front of the South African embassy. On the occasion of making his 'The Global Campaign for Action Against Poverty' speech in 2005, Mandela was showered with many titles and terms such as the "president of the world" and "with the coolest shirt collection in the world". Well, he could be both and more.

The former South African president will travel to London for the 27 June event, which will feature a long string of top entertainers from around the world including; Dame Shirley Bassey, Simple Minds and Razorlight. The British-born, South African-based pop star Johnny Clegg is also on the bill with Sipho Mabuse, Loyiso, Papa Wemba , Emmanuel Jal, Sugababes, Andrea and Sharon Corr, Eddy Grant, Italian star Zucchero and Spainish group Amaral, while Queen will perform with vocalist Paul Rodgers, Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox and the Soweto Gospel Choir, Eminem, U2, Amy Winehouse and the Spice Girls are among the acts that will appear at a concert for Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday in June.

There will also be an appearance by The Children of Agape, a choir of Aids orphans who were the subject of the film We Are Together. You might remember that Annie Lennox played a key part in the foundation of 46664 in 2003. That must be one of those rare occasions when the best of the best congregate in one place. There is a rumour that more stars are being lined up to take both Mr Mandela and the audience by surprise.

To conclude, you may ask, why does Mandela attract so much attention? Mandela fought a fair war against discrimination in South Africa and knew when to step down from the presidency which he served very well. Besides, isn't it refreshing to see a politician from a developing world standing on such a high moral ground when most leaders are presiding over terrible regimes that allow people to loot public wealth at will, kill others for sport, and destroy public and private property at the slightest excuse. The repercussions of this callous and irresponsibility is there for all to see. We can discern this from massive poverty and obscene inequality that you see in many parts of the world. The world needs more people like Mandela.
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