Renowned adventurer and race car driver Gugu Zulu has died just before summiting mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with the Trek 4 Mandela expedition, as the world celebrates what would have been the global icon for reconciliation’s 98th birthday.
In a brief statement, the Nelson Mandela Foundation said Zulu died after experiencing breathing problems and medical teams tried everything they could to save his life.
“I am devastated. I knew him well. I recruited him to climb Kilimanjaro” said the foundation’s chief executive Sello Hatang. “The last thing he said to me at the airport before he left last week was that he wanted to speak about doing other Mandela Day projects”.
The 38-year-old was climbing Kilimanjaro with his wife Lesego and other team members that included business people and prominent public figures.
Zulu was best known for his adventurous streak, and with his wife they were known as “the adventure couple”.
The motorsport enthusiast was a champion Volkswagens race car driver and, with his skills on the track, was affectionately known as the Fastest Brother in Africa. He has been racing since 1999 after graduating from the Isondo Racing Academy. In 2000, he shocked the racing world by winning the Vodacom Isondo Sports national championship, taking 13 out of 16 races with two second places.
This catapulted him into the world of fast cars and, since then, he also hosted car shows and developed the love for running with his wife.
Only a year ago the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter.
At an annual fund-raising initiative, this year’s Trek 4 Mandela climb up Kilimanjaro aimed to raise enough money to provide sanitary pads to 350 000 girls. On its website, the foundation said new research shows that girls from marginalised backgrounds miss up to 50 days of school because they do not have access to sanitary towels.