South Africans were shocked to learn of the passing of racing car driver Gugu Zulu’s death on Mandela Day. Zulu died while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as part of the Trek4Mandela initiative.

But who was this famous South African and why is the country in mourning?

Driver, dancer and all-round good guy

Gugu Zulu was a celebrated South African racing driver, presenter and TV star.

He was a celebrated and well-established racing driver for Volkswagen. In 2000 he shocked the racing world by winning the Vodacom Isondo Sports 2000 national championship mere months after graduating from the Isondo Racing Academy.

He went from strength to strength, joining the Sasol Steam Team in 2001 which saw him honoured with the Guinness Achievement Award as well as the Wesbank and Goodyear Star of Tomorrow awards.

He started continued his driving career with rally driving in 2003 and participated in international races by 2004.

In 2005 he became presenter for SABC’s Car Torque and by 2006 he’d become the commercial manager for A1 Team South Africa.

In addition to these professional commitments he was also a driving instructor for Volkswagen, BMW and Audi and a celebrity contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

His racing peers affectionately called him ‘the fastest brother in Africa’.

Trek4Mandela

The annual Trek4Mandela Kilimanjaro expedition is aimed at raising funds to ensure that 350 000 young girls can attend school and not be hampered by menstrual challenges. It has been found that girls from marginalised backgrounds miss up to 50 days of school due to menstrual challenges. The Trek4Mandela initiative therefore creates awareness for the Caring4Girls programme.

Zulu was part of a group of people, including his wife (biokineticist and Survivor South Africa alumni) Letshego Moshoeu, who were trekking up Kilimanjaro. He experienced breathing problems during the expedition and was put on a drip while medical crew descended the mountain. Although they attempted resuscitation, Zulu died during the descent. Zulu had several plans for the Nelson Mandela Foundation in the pipeline. He was 38 years old.

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