Sibusiso Vilane

“He has shown the heights we can all scale in life if we put our shoulder to the wheel and work at things without flagging. You have done us proud!”

our former President, Thabo Mbeki said this about our amazing guest speaker at the 2013 Leadership Seminar.

Sibusiso Vilane is no stranger to the South African public. You see him daily on TV. With all his achievements, Sibusiso remains humble. In his words,

“I never dreamed I would be “the first” to do anything in my life but now, I cannot live without an expedition.”

Sibusiso was born in 1970, in Shongwe Mission in Mpumalanga. His parents moved to Swaziland a few years later, as his mother was native to the country. It was in Swaziland, that Sibusiso started his schooling, at the age of eleven. He only started school then because he helped support his family by doing jobs in the community.

His journey began when he worked as a cattle herder at the age of seven. Sibusiso began his working career as a game ranger at Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland in 1993. From cattle herder to game ranger, Sibusiso had a great desire to strive for more and to have a better life.

He then developed two very important relationships. In 1995 he wed Nomsa, to whom he has been married for 18 years and together they have four children. And then in 1996, he met John Doble, the man who was to become his first mentor in the art of climbing, greatest friend, and the benefactor of many of his expeditions.

Sibusiso started climbing peaks in the Drakensburg in 1996. In 1999 he summitted Mount Kilimanjaro and went on to the Himalayas in 2002. In March 2003, Sibusiso set off for the Himalayas again, in his quest to be the first black African to summit earth’s highest mountain, Everest. He summitted Everest successfully on 26 May 2003 from the South Side. His climbing achievements followed on from there; in 2008 he completed the “Seven Summits” climb. This meant that he had climbed the seven highest mountains in the world. This is an incredible accomplishment, and to add to this he was the first black African to achieve this.

In 2005 Sibusiso reached the summit of Everest again after accessing the peak from the North Ridge – the more difficult side. This achievement meant that he is the first black African to climb the world’s highest peak twice and by two different routes.

In late 2007 Sibusiso and fellow mountaineer, Alex Harris, embarked on a trek to reach the South Pole. When they completed the expedition on 17 January 2008 it made Sibusiso and Harris the first South Africans to walk to the South Pole, and Sibusiso the first black person to do so. Sibusiso arrived at the geographic North Pole on 12 April 2012; this was the final hurdle to becoming the first black person to complete the Three Poles Challenge.

He has also published a book titled “To the Top from Nowhere”, which gives a first-hand account of his adventures.