Thursday, 5 December 2013

London mourns passing and celebrate memories of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, President of South Africa 1994-99

Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd and global TV audience at the
1990 London concert at Wembley Stadium. (Photo: © Rod Leon)

Nelson Mandela: A London Salute

Londoners began to mourn tonight's (Thursday, 5 December) passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, and former President of South Africa 1994-99, writes Paul Coleman.

But Londoners' also hold fond memories of Mandela's visits to the city that stretch back to the summer of 1962. Mandela came to the UK capital seeking public and political support for the African National Congress' struggle against the white-led apartheid regime. Mandela spent time at the Haringey home of Oliver Tambo, a fellow ANC leader. A lawyer, Mandela also visited the Royal Courts of Justice.

  Shortly after returning to South Africa, the apartheid regime sentenced Mandela and other freedom fighters to life imprisonment. Mandela spent the next 27 years in prison for daring to lead others in the fight against the apartheid ideology of racial domination and segregation.

London and apartheid
London-based governments at Westminster largely showed practical support to the apartheid regime - and the regime itself ran a major propaganda centre at South Africa House, the embassy building on the east side of Trafalgar Square. 
  But London also sheltered hundreds of exiled African National Congress members. 
  The city also became the home of the global Anti-Apartheid Movement that campaigned ceaselessly for the release of Mandela and his fellow prisoners. 

Mandela concerts at Wembley
Mandela's 70th birthday in the summer of 1988 was marked by the BBC screening the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute music festival at London's Wembley Stadium on 11 June. An estimated 600 million people in 67 countries watched the concert on TV.
  The concert included songs such as Free Nelson Mandela by Jerry Dammers, Biko by Peter Gabriel and I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder.
  Amongst other performers were Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Tracy Chapman.

A second concert at Wembley, Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa, was broadcast to over 60 countries on 16 April, 1990. Mandela appeared and spoke on stage for 45 minutes. The concert became an official international reception for Mandela, who had been released from an apartheid jail only two months earlier.
    The above photo, taken by the London-based photographer Rod Leon, shows Mandela saluting the Wembley crowd and the huge global TV audience.
  Artists included Aswad, Jackson Browne, Mica Paris, Neneh Cherry, Simple Minds and Lou Reed.

Mandela, when 78, visited London as President of South Africa. In July 1996, Mandela's four-day state visit included a trip to Brixton, home to one of Britain's largest communities of black people. Thousands of black and white Brixtonians thronged the streets to greet Mandela. His visit also saw him dance next to the Queen and Prince Charles at a special party at the Royal Albert Hall. Mandela stayed at Buckingham Palace.
  in 2008, Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday in London, and stayed at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. He also visited the Queen again at Buckingham Palace.

Statues and sculptures
A statue of Nelson Mandela has stood in Parliament Square since August 2007. A sculpture of Mandela, commissioned by the Greater London Council, was unveiled by ANC president Oliver Tambo beside the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank in 1985. Mandela's image also adorns the walls inside South Africa House, now the embassy for the free and multi-racial republic that Mandela sought.

Nelson Mandela House
Del Boy and Rodney, fictitious characters in the popular London sit-com, Only Fools and Horses - that first appeared on BBC TV in 1981 - lived in 'Nelson Mandela House' in Peckham in south London.

© Photo: Courtesy and copyright of Rod Leon

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, December 2013.