African Independent editor Jovial Rantao, who was a fellow climber with Gugu Zulu, shares his account of Zulu’s last moments, suggesting that the sportsman might have been saved if help had come earlier
“The one image that remains vivid in my memory is seeing an exasperated Letshego Zulu running next to a bicycle stretcher carrying her husband on a pitch-dark gravel road,” Jovial Rantao said, speaking to The Star.
Zulu died on Monday morning after attempting to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. He and his wife, biokineticist Letshego, took on Kilimanjaro as part of the Trek4Mandela campaign by the Nelson Mandela Foundation alongside other climbers in a bid to raise funds for sanitary pads in order to help girls from disadvantaged communities.
Reports have emerged that Zulu was at the base camp on Sunday when he fell ill.
The Star news editor Omphitlhetse Mooki, who also took part in the climb, told The Star that Zulu fell ill the night before the team were meant to summit and, as his condition deteriorated, the doctor noted that he might be suffering from meningitis. At this stage, they were at the base camp, about 32km up the mountain.
Neeran Naidoo, spokesman for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, also said that Gugu had been at the Kibo base camp (the last camp before summiting Kilimanjaro) when he developed flu-like symptoms at 5pm on Sunday.
Naidoo told Independent Online: “The doctor who examined him put up a drip. At about 9pm, his symptoms hadn’t changed and it was decided that he and his wife wouldn’t continue and that he be taken down the mountain.”
Rantao told The Star that he was appalled that the sportsman died because of a “poor health institution” at Kilimanjaro, despite the destination’s popularity. According to Rantao, Zulu was transported on a bicycle stretcher for 32km by six men back down to the gate of Kilimanjaro National Park. They travelled for up to four hours before they were able to find help, Rantao said.
“A powerful shriek by Letshego echoed through the dormitories at Kibo Camp at the foot of Kilimanjaro after she discovered that he [Zulu] wasn’t breathing,” Rantao said.
EyeWitness News reported on Monday that Zulu’s sister, Liyanda Zulu and a Nelson Mandela Foundation representative are heading to Tanzania to meet with doctors to hopefully establish the exact cause of his death.