Nelson Mandela’s widow Graça Machel has lauded the 40 participants of the Trek4Mandela who will summit Mount Kilimanjaro in honour of the Struggle icon as the epitome of courage.
Machel was speaking at OR Tambo International Airport during the send-off of the group on Thursday.
Family, friends and colleagues gathered as the group jetted off, hoping to summit Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, on Wednesday, Mandela’s birthday.
Machel said the Trek4Mandela was an extraordinary initiative.
PROUD: Graça Machel bids farewell to the 40 climbers. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
“This is one of the highest moments this year for me when I had to join these young extraordinary people who represent an example of courage, of focus, of consistence and perseverance.
“The first time I heard about the Trek4Mandela, I thought this is an extraordinary initiative. It must keep going. It takes huge courage to decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. And then to climb it again and again,” the former first lady said.
“I can’t see myself doing that. I don’t see myself as courageous enough. So I really admire you, Richard (Mabaso) and your team.”
Mabaso is the chief executive of the Imbumba Foundation, which aims to bring about social change in South Africa.
Mabaso presented the concept of climbing Kilimanjaro to help raise awareness for the need for sanitary towels for schoolgirls to the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 2012. This was after he overheard a conversation, between his mother and niece, about menstruation.
Given the rising national call for the provision of free sanitary pads to girls, Mabaso and the climbers aim to help many girls access the monthly necessities.
GOING BACK: Letshego Zulu is getting ready to go back to Mount Kilimanjaro to plant trees in honour of her late husband, Gugu Zulu. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
The wife of the late Gugu Zulu, Letshego, will be going back to Mount Kilimanjaro to plant trees with her mom and mother-in-law.
She said this would be done to honour and keep the memory of the racing-car driver who died while climbing Kilimanjaro in 2016 while on a Trek4Mandela expedition.
“Yes, I am heading back to Kilimanjaro, but for a different project. Last year, I went to complete what Gugu and I started in 2016, to summit the mountain. This year, I chose a different project,” Letshego said.
She said she had been approached by Sarah Scott, the founder of the Kilimanjaro tree project.
“She (Scott) said trees are a reminder of life. Trees live for years. I said to her that is the way to honour an incredible human being that Gugu was. He touched so many lives,” she said.
Adventurer and motivational speaker Sibusiso Vilane said he would like to see more citizens participating in the initiative.
Vilane has been leading the team of climbers in the Trek4Mandela over the past six years.
He said the issue of girls from poor backgrounds who miss up to 50 days of school each year due to menstrual-related challenges was a cause for concern.
Group member Abigail Semono, 31, said she had always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro.
“I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro three years ago but two years ago, I decided to do it with the Trek4Mandela because it is a cause close to my heart. A girl’s education is close to my heart,” Semono said.
The mother-of-three said she had prepared herself ahead of the adventure.
The Trek4Mandela will celebrate Madiba’s 100th birthday with two summit groups: one on July 18, to celebrate Mandela Day, and the August 9
expedition, which will commemorate Women’s Day.
The Trek4Mandela 2018 expedition aims to raise enough funds to ensure that 500000 girl children will not miss a day of school, and give the much-needed accessibility to sanitary towels.