Little Tshego conquers Kilimanjaro

Retshegofaditswe "Tshego" Hatang at Mount Kiliminjaro
Retshegofaditswe "Tshego" Hatang at Mount Kiliminjaro

Sello Hatang vowed to be a hero as he undertook to climb Mount Kiliminjaro in Tanzania for the next five years.

But his 10-year-old son, Retshegofaditswe "Tshego" Hatang, who stole his thunder. Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, says it was his proudest moment when Tshego reached the Uhuru peak - the highest point of the 6000m climb. The climb was on August 5th

An excited Tshego says that after the climb he has learnt that nothing comes easy.

"Although the conditions were not ideal. I was very cold - I really wanted to finish. I had come so far. And one of the guides said it would take longer to go back down than it would to go up," says the grade 4 pupil.

Tshego, who attends Victory House Private school, in the west of Johannesburg, says he hopes his achievement will inspire other children to get involved in charity.

Hatang explains that even he was never brave enough to brace mountain tops until he was approached four years ago to help raise funds for girl children who didn't have access to sanitary towels. He also says in 2013, as a Tutu fellow, he undertook to keep climbing until 2019, as part of his social responsibility community project.

"I selected three schools in the North West that would benefit from the funds raised," says Hatang. But he didn't anticipate that Tshego would show an interest.

He says Tshego first accompanied him on a training exercise to Suikerbos in Heidelberg and seemed to be hooked since.

"He started nagging his mom and I, but I was against it. I told him he could go when he was older, like at 16 years or so. But the boy did his own research and came to show us some Canadian child who had successfully climbed the mountain.

"I then realised just how much he wanted it and told him to be serious as he accompanied me on various training trips for the climb. Drakensberg was tough, but he didn't complain," says the proud Hatang.

He says when it came to the real thing, Tshego breezed through the first two days of the five to ten days' journey. "On the third day he complained of chest pains. But I knew this was expected at that point. And all seven people in our group helped and gave him so much support and assurance that he would be fine. However, it became tougher as the journey continued.

"Closer to summit he had little rest and felt extremely cold. There was a time when he couldn't feel his hands and feet. I had at one point given him my jacket as an extra layer. At some point, I suggested we turn back but he insisted to continue.

"He even cried saying 'You said I'm close, so why must I turn back?'" says Hatang.

Before he could answer his son, the rest of the group wrapped little Tshego in a blanket and carried him. Sibusiso Vilane, the guide, warned Hatang that it would take longer to turn back and that Tshego would be fine and warm once the sun came up.

"And lo and behold, he finished the last mile by himself, and ahead of me. I wept and he looked at me with bewilderment."

But by this time the wind was severe and they were both exhausted, so Hatang demanded they end it there and turn back.

"He actually wanted to go further but I had to put my foot down. He had achieved his goal'" says Hatang. "I don't think I can't do it again. The stress I experienced. He can go when he is older."

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