Magazine article New African

The Man the ANC Forgot

Magazine article New African

The Man the ANC Forgot

Article excerpt

Two exceptional global broadcast events in 1988 and 1990 took the anti-apartheid message to a new level of mass media popular campaigning. The first, the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert, reached 500 million people; and the second, Nelson Mandela: Tribute for a Free South Africa concert, reached 600 million. But would you believe that the various ANC governments have forgotten about the man behind those events, the British producer Tony Hollingsworth? Baffour Ankomah reports.

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Tony Hollingsworth's name precedes him. A key world figure in the use of popular culture as a campaign tool for laudable causes, this British producer, and some say "impresario", has been forgotten by the ANC governments in South Africa, even though he says he does not need to be thanked for what he did or does!

"No one has to thank me," he told New African in an interview in early November. "Until everyone is free, I'm not free. I don't need to be thanked. We didn't go out looking for thanks. These things need to be done. And that is the truth. Yes, we helped to get Mandela out of prison, but no one has to thank me for it."

Tony (as he is affectionately called by his colleagues and admirers) has produced nine of the world's largest global broadcast events. Two of them--his most renowned productions to date--were for Nelson Mandela; the first on 11 June 1988 at Wembley Stadium, London, called for Mandela's release from prison; and the second, also at Wembley on 16 April 1990, celebrated the release. But you couldn't meet a more unassuming, humble celebrity than Tony Hollingsworth!

Interestingly, today, as Mandela increasingly becomes a global brand--with the United Nation's recent declaration of 18 July (Mandela's birthday) as "Nelson Mandela's International Day" in honour of his contribution to world peace and freedom--only a few people remember that just 20 years ago Mandela was seen as a "terrorist" by most Western governments and broadcasters.

In fact, it was only on 9 May 2008 that the US Congress passed a bill officially removing the tag of "terrorist" that Washington had placed on Mandela and the ANC. The author of the bill, Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at the time: "This long-overdue bill is the direct result of a stunning and embarrassing story for the United States. Despite recognising two decades ago that America's place was on the side of those oppressed by apartheid, the Congress has never resolved the inconsistency in out immigration code, which treats many of those who actively opposed apartheid in South Africa as terrorists and criminals. Leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Govan Mbeki--father of President Thabo Mbeki--were continually barred from entry to the US and had to apply for special waivers to gain entry."

Enter Tony & Co

But not all Westerners were as blinkered as the lawmakers in Washington and London, where in 1988, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously declared in the House of Commons that the ANC was a "typical terrorist organisation". Their view was not shared by millions of ordinary Westerners, including Tony Hollingsworth, now 52, who worked and campaigned ceaselessly for the release of Mandela and the end of apartheid.

In fact, Tony did more than most ordinary people and it is a crying shame that the various ANC governments, beginning with Mandela's in 1994, have not had the grace to acknowledge his remarkable contribution to the cause. The ANC did not even invite him to Mandela's inauguration in 1994! This is not to say that other antiapartheid notables, mostly foreign-based, have not shown appreciation for Tony's work. On 12 June 1988, just 24 hours after the first Mandela concert, five anti-apartheid giants--the late Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, Oliver Tambo, Dr Allan Boesak, Andimba Tiovo ja Tiovo, and the British MP Robert Hughes--jointly signed a letter thanking Tony for his outstanding contribution to defeating apartheid. …

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