Nelson Mandela arrived in London yesterday in anticipation of his 90th birthday concert that takes place in Hyde Park this weekend. The former South African president is a frequent visitor to these parts: just last year he unveiled his statue in Parliament Square, and he has long recognised London's contribution to the overthrow of apartheid in his native country.
Mandela probably wants little more than to relax, but for such a statesman, politics are never far away. The situation in Zimbabwe is so dire that many are calling on Mandela to condemn the brutality of Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF government and declare the regime illegitimate, a statement that Mandela's spineless successor, Thabo Mbeki, has failed to do. In 2000, Mandela called for his Zimbabwean counterpart to retire, yet since then has shown little inclination to interfere in what has grown into one of the most despotic regimes on Earth, Mandela's long retirement and canonisation as a great moral force denuding him of his ability to influence events on the ground.
The concert, however, represents the Mandela of now: a man with immense respect around the world, his name alone capable of drawing talent such as Leona Lewis, Annie Lennox and the Soweto Gospel Choir for an event that will raise money for the Aids charity 46664.
Perhaps the most intriguing act, though, is Amy Winehouse, whose health has been furrowing brows this past week. Emphysema's what she's got, apparently, and in case she croaks mid-caterwaul, the organisers have arranged a dedicated ambulance crew stage-side during her performance. Vendors will also be barred from selling her booze, while her dressing room will be filled with "jelly beans and Fruit Pastels". Which does suggest that she's moved from the diet of a forty-year old crackhead to that of a seven year old child with remarkable ease.