As the accounting profession in South Africa evolves, the sector is welcoming new talent into its ranks. SAICA’s numerous training programmes are evidence that the industry is churning out fresher, younger minds as it continues to grow. But with so many opportunities to work in the lucrative private sector, why would a young professional choose to devote his career to serving others by working in the public sector? 29-year-old Motlatsi Donald Thoahlane explains.
Twenty years ago, Free State-born Thoahlane was a nine-year-old tyke navigating his primary school days when the world’s IT engineers grappled with ones and zeroes during the Y2K Millennium Bug. Today, he’s all grown up and working with big numbers as a tax auditor for the South African Revenue Service (SARS) at its Durban office (KwaZulu-Natal). With over six years’ experience as a tax auditor as well as internal and external auditor, he is armed with BAcc and BAcc (Hons) degrees from the University of the Free State and carries the prestigious designation of SAICA-registered Associate General Accountant (AGA(SA)).
Born of teacher parents in the township of Botshabelo, some 45 kilometres east of the City of Roses, he initially wanted to follow in the footsteps of his parents. He describes them as fully supportive of his career ventures.
‘My father was the one who discouraged me from taking the teacher college route. He believed that the career I should pursue after matriculating should be dictated to by the subjects where I’d scored highly in my examinations, which happened to be commercial subjects.’
So why did he choose to go the public sector route instead of the ever-tantalising private sector path? ‘I was given the opportunity to serve my articles at the Auditor-General’s offices and from that journey I learned a lot about public finances while developing preferences for working in the public sector,’ says Thoahlane.
Taking advantage of the current ruckus in national government struggles with corruption, and even more so with the latest PPE procurements scandals, we ask if it is difficult for public sector accounting professionals to resist the urge or pressure to go rogue. Thoahlane, who describes himself as a man of integrity, responds that the choice should be an easy one for accountants who pride themselves on having pledged their willingness to uphold the expectations of being a member of SAICA and its code of ethics.
Having developed a passion for the public sector, which rewards the diligent worker with the satisfaction and pride of serving the country and her people to the best of their abilities, is an achievement worth the effort.
Thoahlane is also an aviation fanatic who admits to spending a lot of his free time searching the web for videos of aircraft or vicariously living his love of flight through a flight simulator on his laptop. He loves to travel in planes.
Asking for advice to a generation of young and upcoming accounting professionals, he says they should not despair looking at the current economic woes and high unemployment rate the country struggles with. ‘Studying accounting opens you up to a wide net of work opportunities, and there will always be employment opportunities in the finance industry. It’s virtually guaranteed. Also, belonging to a professional body like SAICA cements your value in the eyes of potential clients,’ says the young professional.
‘Seeing we’ve also just celebrated women’s month, I’d also like to urge all women to pursue their dreams without fear or intimidation,’ added Thoahlane.
Having started work at SARS as recently as 2018, he says his current career plans include staying on a few more years to polish his craft and carrying out his enthusiasm for serving society. He also mentions that his days as a bachelor are numbered, as he’d like to tie the knot in a few years’ time.
If Motlatsi Thoahlane − whose first name loosely translates to the ‘multiplier’, which is rather apt for his chosen career path − is to be used as a yardstick of the calibre of sharp, passionate and compassionate public accountants coming through the ranks, we can be confident that the prospects of the accounting profession look mighty fine.
AUTHOR | Edward Makwana