The Nelson Mandela Foundation has confirmed that race car driver Gugu Zulu died while attempting to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Zulu was part of a group of people, including his wife, Letshego Zulu, who were part of the Trek4Mandela expedition.
Gugu Zulu and wife Letshego on Kilimanjaro
In a statement released on today, the Nelson Mandela Foundation announced that Zulu died early on Monday morning while trying to reach the summit of the mountain.
“Details are sketchy. What we do know is that Gugu experienced problems breathing. The medical team supporting the trek put him on a drip and they descended the mountain with him. We are informed that the medical teams tried everything possible to save his life,” the foundation said.
Zulu and his wife apparently both descended the mountain together with Richard Mabaso, the project leader and the medical teams. The team was led by experienced mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane.
Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, said: “I am devastated. I knew him well. I recruited him to climb Kilimanjaro. 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. I feel a huge sense of loss.”
Zulu is a celebrated and well-established racing driver for Volkswagen. He leaves behind his wife and baby girl who turned one in June.
The climbers were due to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro on Monday, for Mandela Day. This year’s Trek4Mandela expedition aimed to raise enough funds to ensure that 350 000 girl children would not miss a day of school due to menstrual challenges.
Gugu Zulu was a celebrated racing car driver and after starting his career in 1999 he quickly became known as ‘the fastest brother in Africa.’As he joined the Sasol Stream Team in 2001, his star status quickly grew with Gugu becoming a wanted man on the celebrity circuit.
Suddenly he was being nominated for awards like ‘Best Dressed Male Celeb’ and ‘Best Celeb Couple’ with his wife Letshego.
And he loved it.
As he cemented himself as a household name in South Africa, Gugu and his wife did something spectacular for fitness awareness in the country. Labelling themselves the ‘adventure couple,’ Gugu and Letshego would take us with them on their journey.
From mountain bike rides, to zip lining and hikes, this passionate couple were always side-by-side supporting each other and others with their love for fitness.
I first met Gugu at a celebrity car racing day at Kyalami a few years back. Obviously being a pro, he took the the wheel with ease and wowed everyone with his daring nature.
“Just get in. It’s a thrill. You won’t be scared,” he urged me.
It was exactly that kind of attitude that encouraged people to break their own boundaries and try something new.
Gugu and his wife would make the odd appearance at entertainment events. But with the addition of their baby girl, who was born in June last year and their early mornings doing some or other exercise, the duo would always skip out early.
“Gotta go. I’ve got a 5am bike ride.”
The point is that they earned the name ‘adventure couple.’ No doubt about it. To manage being a celebrity couple and still maintain their passion for working out to better themselves, Gugu and Letshego wanted to inspire South African to do the same. To be fit and healthy. To be adventurous.
I didn’t get into the car, as he prompted me to do all those years back. I immediately wished I had but if there’s one lesson we can all learn from Gugu – one which we know but all too often don’t take heed of – is to live your best life.
He sure as hell did.
Story and photo’s Times Media