LONDON Stars of the screen, stage and sporting
arena paid tribute on Friday to Nelson Mandela, whose visit to
London was overshadowed by events in Zimbabwe where disputed
elections have just ended.
Hollywood actor Will Smith hosted a birthday celebration
concert in front of Mandela, who turns 90 next month, and
nearly 50,000 cheering fans in London's Hyde Park.
Smith was joined on stage by Formula One racer Lewis
Hamilton and pop acts including Queen, Simple Minds, Amy
Winehouse, Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox and Razorlight.
The event was organized to support Mandela's HIV/AIDS
charity "46664," named after his prison number, and comes 20
years after the London hosted another concert for the statesman
when he was still behind bars for his stand against apartheid.
"Twenty years ago, London hosted a historic concert which
called for our freedom," a frail-looking Mandela told the
waving crowd after they had sung him "Happy Birthday."
"Your voices carried across the water and inspired us in
our prison cells far away.
"As we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is
far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness,
including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there
is more work to be done.
"Our work is for freedom for all ... We say tonight, after
nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the
burdens. It is in your hands now, I thank you."
MANDELA SPEAKS OUT
The tribute to Mandela coincided with disputed elections in
Zimbabwe, and during his trip to Britain Mandela was urged to
speak out against President Robert Mugabe who pushed ahead with
the vote despite international outcry.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the poll
because of a wave of deadly attacks on his supporters.
During his visit, Mandela uttered just four words of
criticism of Zimbabwe in a speech at a dinner -- "tragic
failure of leadership" -- and they were enough to make headline
Mandela, South Africa's first black president, officially
retired from politics nine years ago, but he is still a moral
authority admired the world over.
People in the crowd appeared to be at the gig more to honor
Mandela than to hear the music.
"I'm here because of the man," said Clive Jones, a
31-year-old theatre technician. "I feel he's done so much for
the world, especially with what was happening in South Africa.
He is also humble and kind."
Emmanuel Jal, a Sudanese hip-hop artist based in London who
sang on Friday, said Mandela was "unique" among African
leaders. "He did not love power so much, and left it and gave
it to someone else," he told Reuters.
Grammy-winning soul singer Winehouse performed her hit
single "Rehab" as well as "Valerie," despite being diagnosed
with a "touch of" lung condition emphysema earlier this month.
Sporting her trademark black beehive hair, a black and
white dress and high-heeled shoes, the 24-year-old appeared
nervous at first but received one of the biggest cheers of the
At the close of the concert she was joined on stage by
Jerry Dammers, who helped organize the 1988 concert, and many
of the other performers.
Accompanied by a raucous audience, they sang Dammers' "Free
Nelson Mandela," which became an anthem for the anti-apartheid
movement in Britain in the 1980s.
(For a timeline on Nelson Mandela, visit: