Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa
Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa was a music concert that took place on 16 April 1990 at Wembley Stadium, Wembley Park, London, United Kingdom (UK) and was broadcast to more than 60 countries. It was held two months after the release of Nelson Mandela from a South African apartheid prison and was regarded by Mandela as an official international reception.
The success of an earlier concert, a 70th birthday-tribute concert to Mandela in June 1988, held while the black South African leader was still in prison, and the growing likelihood that he would be released reasonably soon led Mandela’s lawyer to ask Tony Hollingsworth, producer of the first concert, to organise the 1990 concert.
Mandela, his party, the African National Congress and the Anti-Apartheid Movement were convinced that the first event increased global pressure on the South African regime to release Mandela—a move that would be the first step in releasing other political prisoners and ending the apartheid regime.
Mandela’s lawyer and Mike Terry, head of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in London, met Hollingsworth in London in December 1989. According to his lawyer, Mandela was insisting on two conditions: that he would be able to talk for any length of time and that the speech would not be edited on television. It was also agreed that the widest possible international television coverage would be sought after, and that broadcast fees and gate money would not be profit-driven, but would rather be used to cover the costs of staging the concert.
At one stage, Mandela considered disassociating himself from the planned concert, after senior ANC figures persuaded him that he should not be holding such an event in "Thatcher’s country", as the ANC believed that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had supported the apartheid regime. He was eventually persuaded to proceed with his participation in the event by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
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Mandela was on stage for 45 minutes and received a standing ovation for the first eight minutes of this time period. During his time on stage, he called for sanctions against South Africa to be maintained and for people across the world to continue pressing for a apartheid’s abolition.
The musical line-up at the Wembley event included: Anita Baker, Bonnie Raitt, Chrissie Hynde, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, Natalie Cole, Neil Young, Peter Gabriel, Simple Minds, Tracy Chapman and Stetsasonic, in addition to the following artists:
- Ben Elton
- Caiphus Semenya
- Daniel Lanois
- Denzel Washington
- Dudu Pukwana
- Geoffrey Oryema
- George Duke
- Jerry Dammers
- Johnny Clegg
- Jonas Gwangwa
- Jungle Brothers
- Lenny Henry
- Letta Mbulu
- Little Steven
- Manhattan Brothers
- Mica Paris
- Neneh Cherry
- Neville Brothers
- Patti Labelle
- Steven Van Zandt (Little Steven)
- Terence Trent D'Arby
- Youssou N’Dour
- Peter Elman, "Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa". Tony Hollingworth website.
- Letter from Mike Terry, Executive Secretary, Anti-Apartheid Movement, 18 January 2003: "Before the first event, the prospect of Nelson Mandela's imminent release from prison seemed completely unrealistic. Yet within 20 months he walked free and I have no doubt that the first event played a decisive role in making this happen. This was implicitly acknowledged by Nelson Mandela, himself, by his decision to participate in the second event."
- Letter from Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, 12 July 1995: "The result of his efforts helped to generate the pressures which secured the release of Nelson Mandela."
- ANC website message: "...the worldwide campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners made a decisive contribution...One event in particular symbolised that campaign - the 'Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute'...The ANC owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the artists and performers and all those who made that event possible..." Archived 2 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
- Stephen Prokesch, "Mandela Urges Support for Sanctions", The New York Times, 17 April 1990.
- "Nelson Mandela British Visit/Wembley Concert", 16 April 1990: " 31.20 Nelson Mandela onto stage...." ITN Source website.