Orphaned brothers to attempt Andean mountain

2009-12-31 00:00

TWO orphaned South African brothers leave tomorrow for Argentina to climb the highest peak in the southern hemisphere.

Ayanda (22) and Sanele (19) Buthelezi, who grew up at Nkosi’s Haven after their mother died of Aids, will attempt the Aconcagua peak to raise money for the home, a shelter for HIV-positive mothers and their children.

The brothers’ mother, Mavis, died in 2003, and a year later their father, Amos, died of heart problems.

Yesterday, the two smiled shyly when talking about their achievements. Earlier this year they were part of a group that climbed Kilimanjaro, with Ayanda reaching the summit.

“Our parents would be very proud of us,”Ayanda said yesterday at Nkosi’s Haven. “And us having done these things, it makes other kids also believe in themselves.”

The brothers are sponsored by businessman Mark van der Walt, who climbed Kilimanjaro with them and will support them in their attempt on Aconcagua.

“This peak is considerably more difficult than Kilimanjaro,” he said. “This time we’re a much smaller group — five people as opposed to the Kilimanjaro team of 17 — and I will be able to give the brothers more attention.”

He said the climb will be a great way to start the new year. “We leave on January 1, so we certainly won’t be having a big party on New Year’s Eve. We are looking forward to the challenge. It’s really a great opportunity.”

Van der Walt said he has attempted the peak twice before, but reckons 2010 is the year he’ll succeed.

“My first attempt was in 2004. At the time, a friend said he thought that mountain would change something in our lives. And it did. Shortly afterwards, I met Ayanda.”

He said Buthelezi, with whom he has had a lot of contact over the years, has enriched his life.

“As a typical white, middle-class man, I couldn’t think what would change in my life. Later, I looked back and realised it was giving these brothers a chance to realise their dreams.”

From their first meeting, he realised Ayanda was talented. “He had just been appointed the deputy head boy of his school. He modestly said he thought he should be head boy. Then I realised that here is a boy with ambition who can achieve a lot.”

Since then, Russell Investments, where Van der Walt works, has supported the brothers and borne a lot of the costs of their expeditions.

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