He has broken 39 different world records, including sitting in a jacuzzi for nearly 13 days, pumping petrol for a thousand hours and disco dancing non-stop for 345 hours, a record he has personally broken six times.
Andre van Zijl, 63, has now set his sights on talking his way to his next record: speaking on a phone non-stop for 50 hours.
“It’s all to raise awareness to tell you HIV is not a death sentence. I don’t attempt things. I just go out and do it. When I set out to do something I do it. I’m 64 next year but I feel 20 and look half my age.”
Van Zijl, an HIV-activist who has known his HIV-positive status for over 30 years, said he had raised R33m thus far in his 25 years of record breaking for disabled and orphaned children.
He said if people wanted to make a difference, they did not necessarily have to give money.
“What have you done for charity this year? There are so many people in need. Everything I do is for disabled and orphaned children,” he said. “You don’t have to take money. Give your time and give yourself. Life is a gift. Live out of need and not greed. People’s ears are not dustbin lids. Don’t speak rubbish into them.”
Given his previous record breaking endeavours, Van Zijl is little concerned by his next challenge, having become used to sleeplessness over the years. “I’ve pumped petrol for a thousand hours. Sleep is not that important.
You don’t have to practise now. I can talk for 50 hours plus,” Van Zijl said at the Hennopsview shopping centre in Centurion, Pretoria, where he is attempting his record. “I will most probably do it [the phone record] again at some stage.”
The inevitable call of nature would also not pose a problem during his marathon phone session. “Going to the toilet, I take the phone with me. Somebody will accompany me not into the toilet but into the [bathroom] so that they can hear I’m talking to someone on the phone.”
And keeping clean? “For 50 hours I don’t really need a bath. I can use wet wipes.”
He said that the public was welcome to come pay him a visit. However, and perhaps unsurprisingly, they had to do so over the phone. “People can come visit me and they can’t speak to me in person. They need to speak to me over the phone. I find that so amusing.”
Most phone conversations don’t last more than a few minutes, so who is going help Van Zijl, originally from Bellville, Cape Town, occupy himself for 50 hours? “There are a lot of people. I’ve got over 1 333 Facebook friends. All of them will be phoning me and I will be phoning them back,” he said.
“I will speak to family. I have a friend in Cape Town who I have known for years. There are going to be so many people you have access to.”
He is allowed a five minute break every hour, but otherwise it’s all talk all the time.
When Sapa looked in on Van Zijl nearly five hours into his attempt on Thursday, he was chatting away on one of the six cellphones in front of him. A landline was also available.
Shoppers looked puzzled as they walked past Van Zijl, sitting under a small gazebo and sporting a bright purple tie and bandana with his blue t-shirt.
One man laughed before asking, “Who is he going to speak to for 50 hours?”
As the day wears on, Van Zyl will move inside a shop to ensure he does not get rained on or suffer from changes in the weather.
After this latest attempt, Van Zijl has no intention of giving up his record breaking ways. He hopes to do his last Cape Argus when he is 104 years old and break a record for every year of his life. “There are so many things that I still have to do,” he said. — Sapa