News > Mandela Welcomes Stars for AIDS Concert

Added on 18-Mar-2005

News report from yahoo!Former President Nelson Mandela on Friday welcomed stars including actor Will Smith and singers Annie Lennox and India.arie to South Africa for his second concert to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic ravaging the continent.

The so-called 46664 concert — named after Mandela's prison number under apartheid — will highlight the plight of women and girls, who are six times more likely to be infected with the AIDS virus than men in South Africa.

"Women don't only bear the burden of HIV infection, they also bear the burden of HIV care," Mandela said in a statement issued on the eve of Saturday's concert. "Grandmothers are looking after children. Women are caring for their dying husbands. Children are looking after dying parents and surviving siblings."

More than 5 million of South Africa's 45 million people are infected with HIV, more than in any other country. At least 600 people die every day of AIDS complications, according to U.N. estimates

"I don't think the South African government is doing enough," said Brian May , a member of rock group Queen, whose founder Freddie Mercury died of the disease. "I don't think any government is doing enough."

May and fellow band member Roger Taylor were two of the driving forces behind the 46664 concert.

"Hopefully we can play a small part in helping to solve the problem," said May, as he signed autographs for children chanting "We will rock you" at George's Child and Family Welfare Center.

The center counsels traumatized and abused children from hundreds of families, many of them affected by AIDS, and is one of the organizations that will share proceeds from the concert.

This year's event will be staged at the exclusive golf resort of Fancourt, just outside George, on South Africa's verdant Garden Route. Organizers are hoping to attract an audience of 10,000 people. Some 3,000 tickets have been distributed among local community groups.

Hasso Plattner and his family, the billionaire owners of the resort, provided the venue free of charge and have underwritten the entire cost of the event. This will avoid the financial problems that dogged the first 46664 concert — a much bigger and more elaborate event held in the heart of Cape Town in November 1993.

Smith will be master of ceremonies at the concert, at which May and Taylor of Queen will be collaborating for the first time with Bad Company's Paul Rogers. Other international performers include Lennox, Katie Melua and India.arie.

A host of local talent will also be on stage, including Johnny Clegg, Mafikizolo, Karen Zoid and Danny K. All the artists will be performing for free.

All posed Friday for photographs with Mandela, who did not speak to journalists.

Mandela, whose oldest son recently died of an AIDS illness, has repeatedly said that the world is not doing enough to prevent and treat the disease.

"We are facing a tragedy of unprecedented proportions," Mandela said in the statement. "Our response therefore has to be unprecedented."


Submitted by: Richard Orchard

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