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The BBC's David Sillito
reports from Trafalgar Square, London
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After Mandela:
Has the new South Africa failed to deliver?
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Monday, 30 April, 2001, 02:25 GMT 03:25 UK
Hero's welcome for Mandela at concert
Trafalgar Square
Mr Mandela was guest of honour at the packed concert
Nelson Mandela received a hero's welcome at an open air concert in central London at which he paid tribute to the part paid by British people in the fight against apartheid.

Thousands of people gathered in London's Trafalgar Square for the free concert to mark South Africa Freedom Day.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela was guest of honour at the concert, in which bands such as REM and Atomic Kitten performed.

Today is a landmark in all our dreams about a new South Africa

Nelson Mandela

Twenty thousand free tickets were handed out for the event which marked the seventh anniversary of multi-racial democracy in South Africa.

The concert got under way with Irish pop group The Corrs entertaining the crowd, many of whom had draped themselves in the flag of the new South Africa.

The show was billed as an expression of thanks for the work done by people in Britain to end apartheid.

Andrea Corr
The Corrs kickstart the celebrations
Mel B, Dave Stewart, Hugh Masekela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Baba Maal were also among the performers to pay tribute to Mr Mandela, who spent 26 years in prison in South Africa.

Mr Mandela received rapturous applause from the crowd of around 20,000 people.

He told them: "I'm happy to be in Trafalgar Square where the most important battles of liberating South Africa were fought.

"I am a proud and happy person to be here with the British people - the British people who have travelled down the road to democracy."

The former president was entertained on the programme by the South African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

It is the first time that Trafalgar Square, traditionally the venue for New Year's celebrations, has been used for a rock festival.

Mr Mandela watched the show from the balcony of South Africa House, previously the scene of years of round-the-clock anti-apartheid protests.

Nelson Mandela with Andrea Corr
Mandela dances on the David Frost programme

Officials at the commission organised the concert as part of a six-week Celebrate South Africa festival.

Cheryl Carolus, the South African high commissioner, said: "We have achieved a great deal since we won our freedom, but we still face many challenges in our quest to deliver a better future for South Africans.

"Through Celebrate South Africa we hope to share our dreams and aspirations with our friends in the UK and hope they will continue to support us on our journey."

Former campaigner George Johannes, now deputy high commissioner, said the concert was a fully-fledged celebration and a thank you to the British people for their support over the years.

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See also:

30 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Mandela's concert message
30 Apr 01 | Entertainment
Picture gallery: Mandela concert
28 Apr 01 | Music
REM relish Mandela concert
06 Apr 01 | Music
Stars to celebrate South Africa
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