JOHANNESBURG: Beyonce led an all-star line-up including Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z and Usher in Johannesburg at a concert to honour the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela on Sunday.
The concert was the climax of a year of events celebrating the centennial of Mandela’s birth in 1918, and part of a campaign to tackle poverty, child malnutrition and boost gender equality.
This year’s Global Citizen Festival was held at Johannesburg’s 94,736-capacity FNB staium and saw Beyonce perform several of her hits as well as a duet with Sheeran.
Thousands of music fans, many of whom had received free tickets to reward their activism and campaigning work, flocked to the stadium hours before the concert began.
“I’m proud to be part of the global citizen movement because they are trying to make a positive impact on people’s lives — especially women’s and children’s issues,“ said Nokthula Khuzwayo, 23, from Soweto.
“I loved Dbanj’s performance and of course Queen B and Jay-Z, even though it was a brief one.”
As well as a constellation of global stars that also included Pharrell Williams and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hosted fellow heads of state from Ghana, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
“We are here to act in one voice,“ said Ramaphosa.
Beyonce’s performance of her smash hit XO, during which she wore a flowing pink-red dress and paid tribute to Mandela, drew an outpouring of emotion from the crowd.
South African stars Trevor Noah, who was the host, and Bonang Matheba also made appearances, as the largely local crowd braved heavy downpours to attend.
Ahead of the concert co-host Oprah Winfrey hailed Mandela’s “goodness and integrity”, describing him as her “favourite mentor”.
Mandela was imprisoned for decades under South Africa’s apartheid regime. After being released in 1990, he led the country’s transformation into a multi-racial democracy and was elected its first president. He died on Dec 5, 2013, aged 95.
Earlier on Sunday, Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, draped in a bright yellow and blue dress, took to the stage to honour her late husband in front of the near-capacity crowd.
And Mandela’s grandson Ndaba Mandela told festival-goers: “Today it is a privilege and choice for us to take action on behalf of the hundreds of millions of people trapped in the cycle of poverty.
“So I plead with you, don’t think of this as just a music festival, this is a call to the hearts and minds of humanity all across the world.”
The Global Citizen initiative aims to help eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and has staged events in other world cities including London, Brussels, and New York.
According to the initiative’s founder Hugh Evans, more than US$2 billion, (RM8 billion) have been pledged to good causes following the Johannesburg gig, beating the US$1 billion goal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted ahead of the event pledging US$50 million to women’s and girl’s education projects.
Event organisers earlier paid tribute to a rigger who died following a fall while helping to prepare the stage on Saturday.
“The circumstances surrounding the incident are being investigated,“ Global Citizen said in a statement. — AFP