'I will always remember Gugu's smile'

2016-07-20 23:22
Gugu Zulu (Supplied)

Gugu Zulu (Supplied)

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Johannesburg - "If there is one thing that stood out about Gugu it was his smile. He had the most beautiful smile," Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO Sello Hatang said at the arrival of the team of Trek4Mandela climbers at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday evening.  

It was a sad and sombre night for the group who made the climb up Mount Kilimanjaro with South African racing champion Gugu Zulu who died on Monday while trying to make the ascent.

Hatang could not contain his emotions, battling to form sentences as he told of the last day he spent with Zulu. ‎

He said he last saw Zulu at OR Tambo before the team left for Tanzania where they would climb the highest peak on the continent.

"We met here and we took a selfie together and he said, 'We are here ready to go and we will see you when we come back'.

“He said, 'You still owe me coffee when I come back. That's the first thing I want to do so that I can tell you my plan to make a difference in people's lives.' I never had that coffee with Gugu."

Hatang was speaking at a media briefing held after the Trek4Mandela climbers arrived at OR Tambo.

'Please tell him I love him dearly'

He told those in attendance that he had spoken to Zulu's wife Letshego on Wednesday.

Said Hatang: "I spoke to his sister and Letshego and I said, 'When you speak to Gugu, when you speak to his spirit, tell him he still owes me coffee and tell him I will be back at Kilimanjaro to have coffee with him. I will reconnect with his spirit up there. Please tell him I love him dearly.'"

Hatang said he initially recruited Zulu for the climb knowing that the adventurer would never refuse to make a difference in people's lives.

As tears flowed down his face, Hatang said Zulu's death took him back to the passing of his own sister who always took up the cause of the little guy.

‎He emphasised that he would always remember Zulu's smile.

"I know when I climb mount Kilimanjaro next year, I will reconnect with his smile."

Raising money for schoolgirls

Hatang apologised to South Africa, saying he was sorry he did not bring him back alive.

"Because of his selflessness I knew he would do this. I am deeply hurt. I took this really badly. It was a cause we really believed in... to ensure that no girl child misses school," Hatang said.

Many who attended the media briefing were overcome with emotion with some members of the Trek4Mandela team bursting out crying as Hatang spoke of Zulu.

Zulu's funeral is scheduled for July 28 at Rhema Bible Church while his memorial service will be on July 26 at Kyalami Racetrack, he said. ‎

Zulu died on Monday while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with his wife Letshego.

He reportedly experienced breathing problems on Sunday and was rushed to hospital.

This year's Trek4Mandela expedition was intended to create awareness of the problems facing impoverished girls in rural areas during menstruation.

Read more on:    nelson mandela foundation  |  gugu ­zulu  |  johannesburg

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