Rocker Steven Van Zandt cannot wait to perform with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band in South Africa for the first time since penning a song in honour of the late Nelson Mandela and his battle to end apartheid.

The guitarist and actor added activist to his resume in 1985 when he founded a group called Artists United Against Apartheid to protest the segregation of black and white citizens in South Africa.

Comprised of about 50 musicians, including U2, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, Lou Reed and Keith Richards, among others, they came together to produce the song Sun City, which was named after an exclusive all-white resort in South Africa that the group decided to boycott.

And with the passing of Mandela earlier this month (05Dec13), Van Zandt tells U.S. breakfast show Big Morning Buzz Live that the song will mean that much more when he returns to South Africa for the first time in nearly 30 years.

He explains, "I was president of Artists United Against Apartheid. At the time it was not a big issue so we kinda made it into a big issue. We used the Sun City resort as a symbol and we shut the resort down and really established a cultural boycott... as a stepping stone towards the economic boycott, which was the important one.

"We got a lot of airplay on MTV and (U.S. network) Bet (Black Entertainment Television) because radio wouldn't play it. It was too black for white radio and too white for black radio - ironically, when we're writing about apartheid - we had our own apartheid here in America.

"Luckily we got their support so all the congressmen and senators' kids saw the video and started asking their parents for the first time, showing their interest in what their parents did for a living, asking, 'Daddy, what's this South Africa thing about?'"

Van Zandt details how the organisation played a key part in helping to end apartheid with the help of U.S. politicians, which led to the release of Mandela after 27 years in jail.

Van Zandt, along with Springsteen and the rest of the E Street Band, are due to return to South Africa for four live dates at the end of January (14).