46664: global campaign for change

Nelson Mandela – former Robben Island prisoner number 46664 – is the inspiration behind a HIV/Aids awareness and social justice campaign that aims to honour his humanitarian legacy.

Nelson Mandela
A special tribute concert is held in London on 27 June 2008 in celebration of Madiba’s 90th birthday. (Image: Paul Williams, via Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Nelson Mandela was sent to prison on Robben Island in 1964; he was the 466th prisoner to arrive that year. He was given the prison number 46664.

Thirty-eight years later, Mandela gave his number to a global HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaign as a reminder of the sacrifices he made for a cause he believed in. 46664 (pronounced “four, double six, six four”) was established in 2002 as an independent, not-for-profit organisation.

Mandated to engage the world’s youth, a series of high-profile concerts was planned – starting with a concert in November 2003 in Cape Town, which saw artists such as Beyonce, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo, Peter Gabriel, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and the Eurythmics perform.

In the following years, Norway, Spain and the UK also hosted concerts. In 2008, a special tribute concert was held in London in celebration of Madiba’s 90th birthday.

‘It’s in our hands’

At the concert, Mandela told the Wembley Stadium audience, “even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness including Aids, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done.

“Our work is for freedom for all… it’s time for new hands to lift the burdens. It’s in your hands now.”

The 46664 campaign has broadened its approach to heed Mandela’s call, taking up issues of social injustice and to ensure his humanitarian legacy.

International Nelson Mandela Day

“Take action; inspire change; make every day a Mandela Day.’

Held on Mandela’s birthday, July 18, Mandela Day is a call to honour Madiba’s legacy through “service to one’s fellow human”. The idea is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.

In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

Mandela spent 67 years in the service of humanity – as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. In marking the day, people are urged to spend 67 minutes of their time to helping others.


46664 ambassadors are musicians, artists and sportsmen and women who have committed to supporting 46664. They include celebrities who have performed at his concerts and have become global fans, such as Annie Lennox, Bono, Will Smith, Danny K and Vusi Mahlasela.

Reviewed: June 2013

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