Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa was a popular-music concert that took place on April 16 1990 at Wembley Stadium, London, 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. Mandela was on stage for 45 minutes, of which the first eight minutes was taken up by a standing ovation. He called for sanctions against South Africa to be maintained and for people across the world to continue pressing for apartheid’s abolition.
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, impresario and 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 had played an important part in increasing pressure on the South African regime to release Mandela – a move which 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. Mandela, according to the lawyer, was insisting on two conditions: that he would talk for as long as he liked and that the speech would not be edited on television. It was also agreed that the widest possible international television coverage would be sought and that broadcast fees and gate money would be geared to the concert breaking even rather than making a profit.
At one stage Mandela backed out of the planned concert after senior ANC figures persuaded him that he should not be holding such an event in “Thatcher’s country” because British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher supported the apartheid regime. He was persuaded to go ahead by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, president of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
Musicians performing 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 Hip Hops own Stetsasonic who happen to win over the Wembley Stadium crowd prior to Mandela's speech. (see fuller list below).
Rights in the event are held by Tribute Inspirations Limited.