Twenty years ago today I was standing on the football pitch at Wembley making history -just one insignificant person amongst more than 72, ooo young people.  600 million more people watched on television.  We heard Tracy Chapman sing for the first time in the United Kingdom, a small figure with a guitar, filling us all with her words. 

Then, in the dark, the stadium was filled with small flames as Dire Straits sang Brothers in Arms.  That feeling, of being there, of having been there together with all those quiet people listening in togetherness, is still ineffable after all those years.

This concert marked a turning point for South Africa.  The previous year had seen the extension of the State of Emergency, originally imposed in 1985 and intent on ensuring the survival of the apartheid regime.  By 1988 30,000 people had been detained.

The influence of the world was too much for the government to ignore.  F W de Clerk became the President of South Africa in 1989 and began freeing many black political prisoners.  On 2nd February 1990 he delivered his famous “unbanning” speech.  Nelson Mandela was released on 11th February 1990.   The first nonracial democratic elections were held on 27th April 1994 and Nelson Mandela became the President of South Africa.

Advertisements