IT WAS, by any standards, an extraordinary night for an extraordinary man. At the dinner for Nelson Mandelas 90th birthday there were enough stars from Sir Elton John to Robert De Niro, from Uma Thurman to Neil Diamond and statesmen to put most Hollywood gatherings to shame.
The stars helped raise more than [pounds]5 million for Mr Mandelas charities at the dinner in a marquee in Hyde Park with a menu by Gordon Ramsay and cor-porate tables costing [pounds]100,000.
Amid all the glamour there was also hard politics, and a message heard around the world. After weeks of pre-election violence in Zimbabwe, Mr Mandela broke his silence to condemn Robert Mugabe. His remarks brief, but with an impact beyond mea-sure came in a speech detailing the human suf-fering, poverty and deprivation around the world. Nearer to home we had seen the outbreak of vio-lence against fellow Africans in our own country and the tragic failure of leadership in our neighbouring Zimbabwe, he said.
Then, while his words were rushed to every corner of the globe, dinner guests returned to the two great themes of the evening, raising money for charity, and having fun; for no evening with him can ever be without his particular brand of infectious joy. …