Despite a traumatic childhood hemmed in by in pain and poverty, Hundzukani Mabunda has proved that you can rise above your circumstances and achieve the impossible. She was the first learner at her village to pass Grade 12 with distinctions and also the first qualified chartered accountant at Bambeni Village in Limpopo Province. Today she is a financial manager at Sanlam Investments group.
Hundzukani Mabunda has learned that the best stories in this life come from our struggles and if we make the right choices, these struggles can become the very steppingstones to greater heights. Hundzu courageously decided to turn her pain into greatness. ’I’ve learned to own my story and now share it with pride,’ she says.
Here is her story …
It was on 6 April 1993, a Tuesday afternoon, that a teenage girl gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. It was the day Hundzu was born. Unlike in other families, her arrival was not seen as a good thing. She had brought ‘shame’ to her maternal family, so her grandfather said. And this was the music her mom had to listen to for a long time.
‘My journey is something that sets me apart; out of rape, I was born. At 16 years of age, my mom conceived me, and her life changed forever. Many people advised her to abort me, but as painful as it was, my darling mom refused to abort the baby,’ says Hundzu proudly.
‘My childhood was a mess. I was molested; I eye-witnessed my mom being abused and cheated on by her husband; I lived in abject poverty. The only thing I remember about my childhood is that I was helpless and felt rejected and hated,’ Says Hundzu, thinking back on her past.
If it was possible, Hundzu would erase her childhood memories, but she proudly admits that her experiences have taught her something much deeper than most will ever understand − to love yourself and to love others unconditionally.
‘I’ve learned that the best stories in this life comes from our struggles and those struggles becomes our steppingstones to greater heights. So, I’ve decided to turn my pain into greatness and I’ve learned to own my story and share it with pride,’ she says.
Hundzu was a very smart little girl, but her handwriting was so bad that her mom said to her, ‘You are going to be a doctor because your handwriting is bad and doctors have bad handwriting.’ Hundzu loved the idea of being a doctor, She agreed with her mom’s career choice wholeheartedly and continued to dream of being a doctor until she reached Grade 12.
‘I studied by candlelight since I was in Grade 4 until I completed high school and I used cold water for a bath as there was no electricity at my area. I used to go to school without a lunch box or pocket money. My mom was unemployed and our monthly income of R500 came from my biological father for child maintenance. We survived the whole month with about R350 after subtracting my transport fare to school. Since there was no electricity at home, our food was mainly pap with eggs and canned fish. I didn’t let poverty stop me from dreaming big and wanting more out of life − I was born poor but destined to rise. I refused to be a victim of my circumstances and I became victorious of it,’ says Hundzu.
‘We were at a career exhibition for Grade 12 learners in March 2010 and our guest speaker happened to be a chartered accountant. I started checking the requirements to be accepted as an accounting student, and I applied and was accepted. I had no computer, no smartphone and no Internet connection, so I didn’t know much about careers until someone shed some light on that day − I will always be grateful to him.
‘Before that meeting, I always thought accounting was for slow learners because smart learners like me did science − or so I was told. Little did I know that we [accountants] run the world!’ smiles Hundzu.
Because Hundzu is aware of the power of being equipped with the right knowledge and information, today she is a co-founder of a non-profit organisation that aims to help learners access information and understand different career paths.
While everyone was happy and excited about the World Cup in 2010, Hundzu and her Mom received the most devastating news of their lives – her mother was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
‘To numb the pain, I became addicted to my books. Sometimes I could study crying because the pain was so real and I had no one to talk to. I had to act strong for mom because she was weak and I had to be strong enough for the two of us.’
Despite her circumstances, Hundzu passed Grade 12 with flying colours: ‘I was the first at my village to get distinctions in Grade 12 regardless of my circumstances.’ The ‘poor’ girl was accepted to study accounting sciences at a prestigious university that her mom told her about when she was writing her Grade 9 English essay about herself – the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits). ‘Fortunately for me, Thuthuka took me in. I will always be grateful to Thuthuka for awarding me the opportunity to study and not worry about my fees.’
The first year of studying Bachelor of Accounting Sciences at Wits was a nightmare for Hundzu because she did not have any prior knowledge of basic accounting.
‘I didn’t understand what they meant with debit and credit! I didn’t understand the definitions of assets and liabilities. I was confused as to why my lecturer said a bank is an asset. The company’s financial year blew my mind, I just didn’t get it! In my first year, I also struggled to understand some of my lecturers because English was my third language.’
She remembers calling her mom and crying over the phone about her struggles.
‘My mom just believed in me. She was my number one cheerleader and she said, ‘You’re going to make it!’ − and I did. I managed to get distinctions in my first and second year at Wits. I was awarded a dean’s merit list status as well as the Golden Key International Society membership and I managed to complete my degree in record time.’
Losing her mom to HIV/AIDS in 2016 shook her to the core and left an indelible mark. As the only child, Hundzu was left with no immediate family and felt lost and lonely. It was also the year she was supposed to write her Board 2 SAICA exams (APC).
‘I couldn’t study at all; I had no appetite for food or books, the thing I did best was sleep. I loved weekends because I could just sleep the whole day with no interruption by my alarm. I was depressed and I didn’t even know then. As a result, I “failed” my board course and couldn’t write the 2016 APC exams. But to cut long story short, I finally passed the 2019 APC exams, and I am the first qualified CA(SA) at my village,’ she says proudly.
‘I still believe that my future is colourful and bright and that I am closer than I was yesterday. I just want to remind all who have been struggling on their CA(SA) journey that your future is colourful and bright. You will get there if you don’t quit,’ she says confidently.