Johannesburg: A three-member team of mountaineers has begun their ascent to Africa's highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, aiming to reach the summit on the birthday of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela on July 18.

The former South African president continues to be in a critical but stable condition more than a month after his admission to hospital for a recurring lung ailment.

The 'Trek for Mandela' team is led by Sibusiso Vilane, who achieved fame by becoming the first black African to scale the highest peaks on all continents.

The trio, who began the ascent on Sunday, are seeking to scale the mountain in Tanzania to raise funds to provide for sanitary needs to 500 schoolgirls for a year. In a statement, Vilane said the team considered it a great honour to undertake the project in the name of a man who cared so deeply for humanity.

Meanwhile, prayers for the beloved leader continued to pour in from across the country. The latest report from the Presidency has described Mandela's condition as critical but stable.

South African President Jacob Zuma has called on all citizens to spend Mandela's birthday by doing 67 minutes of community service to commemorate the number of years he spent fighting for the democracy in his homeland.


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