fundraising feat TO HIGHLIGHT AGED
For the past 16 days Willa Pretorius has been living inside a 360-litre wine barrel, stacked firmly atop a 25- metre high steel tower at the entrance of the Highveld Mall in eMalahleni, Mpumalanga.
Though he says "it is lonely up here", he is not getting down any time soon.
"I have 54 more days to go," he says in a cellphone interview, before adding: "This is a pact I have made with myself and as long as I have this little roof to protect me from the rain and wind, I pray and hope that God will give me the strength to pull through."
Pretorius, 48, has put on hold a new job as a marketing manager of a radio station in order to attend to, well, not exactly a small matter - but quite clearly a mammoth task of highlighting the plight of the aged.
On behalf of the South African Council for the Aged, Pretorius hopes not only to enhance awareness but also to raise at least R500000 for the duration of the 70 days he intends to live in the wine barrel.
His wife Tersia and their 22-month-old baby Ewan are some of the regular visitors who wave and shout messages of support. With her eyes firmly fixed on the wine barrel Tersia says unrepentantly, "We support him one hundredpercent."
The couple have two other children, aged 24 and 25, who live in Johannesburg. Baby Ewan seems oblivious to his father's extraordinary stunt, keeping busy playing with his mom's hair. Tersia says her entire family is praying daily that her husband stays up there until midday on June 6.
That's when the heavy metal structure will be dismantled, using a crane, which will also be Pretorius' transport as he comes down to Mother Earth. A huge victory party has already been planned and final touches are being put in place.
The nearby restaurants are playing their part in keeping Pretorius going and will also contribute towards the June 6 party. They take turns sending takeaways to him using a small basket which is operated up and down by a light chain.
Every second day his wife sends a shirt, pants, socks and underwear using the basket.
Says Tersia, "He sleeps there. He eats there. He does number one and two up there because a makeshift toilet has been built for him."
Pretorius says he has two sleeping bags and three blankets. The sleeping bags come in handy on chilly nights because his tall body means that he can't stretch out fully inside the wine barrel.
"I sleep with my legs hanging outside," he says. "It's tough, but such is raising money for the elderly."
Pretorius would like messages of support to his cellphone: 083-479-2445.