Experienced mountaineer Sibusiso Vilane broke down and cried on Wednesday, as he relayed the journey to Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania where racing car driver Gugu Zulu died trying to climb the longest mountain in the continent.
He apologised and said he had promised the 41 climbers and their families that he would bring them back home safely.
“I am disappointed today to say that I did not deliver the promise. To the families and friends I made the promise, I am not proud of myself … I am very sorry, to the Zulu family, relatives, his lovely wife and the baby … I am sorry and to the country,” Vilane said during a briefing at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg where the 40 climbers arrived on Wednesday evening.
He cried and bowed his head while the audience stood up and applauded him.
Vilane said the team’s return was supposed to be a celebration.
“This was supposed to be a celebration … a moment to celebrate this extraordinary effort to climb Kilimanjaro.”
Sibusiso Vilane, who has led 19 expeditions to Mount Kilimanjaro, said he did not think a tragedy such as losing a climber would happen, although there were risks that came with climbing the taxing mountain.
The 2016 Trek4Mandela team climbed to Mount Kilimanjaro on late former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday, July 18. The expedition was for the benefit of a schoolgirls’ charity drive.
Zulu, 38, affectionately known as “the fastest brother in Africa”, died after experiencing breathing problems while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
His wife Letshego Zulu, also an adventurer and fitness fanatic, was part of the expedition as well.
He is survived by Letshego and their one-year-old daughter.