Former president Nelson Mandela was at the Ellis Park stadium on Monday to greet the South African artists who had agreed to perform in his fifth 46664 concert aimed at fighting HIV/Aids.
Johnny Clegg, Arno Carstens, Loyiso, the Parlotones, Prime Circle and the Soweto Gospel Choir are just some of the local stars scheduled to appear at the 46664 concert later this year.
Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Achmat Dangor welcomed the media and music stars who attended the concert briefing.
”The best ideas are usually the simplest ones and 46664 is really one of those very simple and brilliant ideas,” he said.
”One man’s prison number, which in many ways symbolises the ability of a human being to triumph over adversity, has today come to symbolise our ability to overcome one of the biggest challenges of our time — Aids.
”In South Africa today, 900 people die of Aids every day. This a scourge that we can stop.”
Dangor said Mandela could inspire everyone to change the course of the disease.
When Mandela arrived on the field in a golf cart, he was greeted by the loud cheers and the applause of the entire crowd — including a group of construction workers from the stadium, who stopped work to watch his arrival.
Leaning heavily on the arm of his personal assistant, Zelda la Grange, Mandela made his way to a beige embroidered armchair put out for him on the stage.
He greeted with delight singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who was sitting in a front seat.
”I haven’t seen you for a long time. I thought you had gone away,” he said chuckling.
Dressed in the only acceptable fashion for the day — a black 46664 T-shirt bearing an image of his palm — Mandela greeted the similarly attired musicians as they came on stage to meet him.
Even German former tennis player Boris Becker arrived to have a photo taken with Mandela and the music stars.
After the photo opportunity, Mandela had to leave.
”You can see in his eyes he wants to stay but he has other duties to fulfil,” said Dangor.
”OK, bye-bye” said Mandela jovially as he made his way to the cart and out of the stadium.
All the artists stayed to make prints of their hands, which will be used to make a giant mural representing the message of the 46664 concert — ”It’s in our hands” — and how South Africa should fight HIV/Aids.
The concert is to be held in Johannesburg for the first time, at the Ellis Park stadium on December 1.
Other South African artists scheduled for the concert are Cassette, Danny K, Goldfish, Jamali, Jozi, Just Jinjer, Louise Carver and Malaika.
They join international artists including Annie Lennox, Corinne Bailey Rae, Ludacris, Peter Gabriel, Razorlight, Jamelia and the Goo Goo Dolls.
Boris Becker said he had attended the briefing because music and sport ”went hand in hand” as an ”international language” to support causes like HIV/Aids.
Musician Johnny Clegg told journalists he admired the message of the 46664 concerts immensely.
”In the very first [concert] in Cape Town, Madiba got up and said this is not just a health issue, it is a human rights issue.
”This was a critical and shaping moment of the HIV/Aids struggle for me,” said Clegg.
Mandela redefined the terrain of the struggle around Aids in South Africa, said Clegg.
Although HIV/Aids shifts were as slow as ”moving the Titanic”, Clegg still believed the level of debate about the pandemic was much more substantial than it had been when the 46664 concerts started five years ago.
”I think we have a much better debate around it, not just denying it, saying antiretrovirals are bad for you. There’s a real debate going around.
Rock musician Arno Carstens told the South African Press Association he was honoured to be performing at the concert and hoped to collaborate with singer Louis Carver on a song for the occasion. He said Mandela’s stature was key to the success of the 46664 campaign.
”Well, I think he’s the closest thing to Jesus,” said Carstens.
R&B singer Loyiso said it was Africa’s time to speak out on an international platform about the pandemic.
”Nobody else can pitch it better than those who are affected the most,” he said.
Loyiso said he had been thinking about who was more powerful — musicians or the politicians.
”Funny enough, you know, I think the musicians bring more people into one place than politicians would, that’s why whenever something goes on you need musicians on board,” he said.
Loyiso said he hoped to get called up by ”someone really big” at the concert to perform together.
”It’s a day of just getting together and saying ‘we’ve had enough, this thing stops here’,” he said. — Sapa