When she was only in Grade 7, Buhle Hanise Nomabunga CA(SA), BAIC CFO, decided to become a chartered accountant after she was inspired by Sindiswa Zilwa, the then second black, South African female CA(SA) and others. Today as president of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA), she is 100% dedicated to helping other women achieve their dreams too
Being a finalist in the SAICA Chairman Difference Makers Awards in the category Leader in Business was an honour that still takes Buhle Hanise’s breath away. It humbled her to realise that she could be an inspiration to other people to achieve even more.
Since then, Buhle has lived an intentional life, made deliberate decisions and has dedicated herself to leaving a legacy for her daughter whilst changing the world for the better.
’I have never regretted my decision to become a CA(SA),’ she says. ‘I have enjoyed the journey and the opportunities the qualification has provided me.’
Not only is Buhle 100% dedicated to making a difference through her role as BAIC CFO, but she is passionate about helping other women achieve their dreams. She currently serves as the president of the ACWA (African Women Chartered Accountants), a non-profit organisation founded in 2002 on the premise of mutual support and personal development of African female chartered accountants.
They endeavour to do this by identifying and developing young girls who aspire to be CAs(SA) for entry into universities to pursue a degree that will allow them to enter the profession. They also support newly qualified black women and those who are completing their articles.
‘I think I’m motivated to help others because other people helped me,’ Buhle explains.
While Buhle was studying at the University of Transkei, Professor Themba Zakuza, who was on the lookout for talent, assisted helped getting funding for her studies.
When she wanted to pursue her CTA, she met SAICA’s project director for transformation and growth, Lwando Bantom. ‘He saw my potential and went about seeing that I got the support and help I needed to further my studies and career,’ she says.
With Lwando’s help, Buhle was introduced to the Thuthuka programme and studied in Cape Town as a beneficiary of the Education Upliftment Fund.
Buhle has faced many challenges in her life. One of the first was failing her first board exam. This was when she encountered the AWCA. Having the support of this organisation was life-changing and helped me in successfully qualifying as a CA(SA) in 2009,’ says Buhle. Today, she is the president of this organisation.
‘Not only did SAICA and Thuthuka push me to repeat my board exams, but the learnings from the AWCA’s preparatory course helped me deal with the emotional side of things, which made me realise the exam is just like any other, and that I must work on both the technical and the mindset.’ She has taken this lesson to heart throughout her career and whenever she faces challenges.
Be inspired and inspire others
After becoming a mother, Buhle realised she has a passionate drive to create a legacy for her daughter (now 7). ‘This child, when she is a teenager or at varsity, needs to have me as a role model, rather than celebrities and other people. She needs to realise the importance of hard work and having dreams and goals. I want her to understand that, when she works hard and believes in herself, eventually even the sky will not be the limit. She must know that she can be anything and everything she wants to be in this life.’
It is also important to her to live a balanced life and to take care of herself so that she can take care of others. ‘I always tell my daughter her mommy comes first, she and my husband come second. I show her that mommy has to do what it takes to make her happy first, so that she can be a good mom and wife.’
Buhle was inspired by her own mother as well. ‘She had me before she finished school and continued studying part-time to finish her degree while juggling being a mom. She always strived to achieve her goals no matter how long it took her.’
For Buhle, making a difference in other people’s lives has always come naturally. ‘I always want to make an impact in some way or the other and the work that I do for the AWCA is, honestly, a labour of love. Giving back, to me, says to others that you are not alone in this world and, as such, make your mark in some way or the other.’
One of the things she enjoys most is meeting face to face the young girls the AWCA is assisting. ‘It’s nice when you see their faces and you know you have made an impact on their lives. It makes me feel that the sacrifices I’m making are worth it and matter.’
Although the AWCA is a non-profit organisation, the board runs it the same way they would a business. ‘We are all CAs after all,’ Buhle laughs. ‘We do this so that we can see the results at the end of a year. If you don’t have targeted goals and strategies, you are just playing games.’
The AWCA is celebrating their 20th anniversary in August this year and has gone from strength to strength. ‘We try to bridge any gaps in the accounting profession that exist for our African women,’ she explains.
When facing challenges in her career or life, Buhle always tries to remember deciding to become a CA(SA) was not someone else’s dream for her. ‘It was what I wanted. When things get difficult, you must always remember why you chose this path and be inspired and encouraged by that.’
Intentional about development
From the outside, it may seem like her career has taken many paths but according to Buhle, it was all building blocks for where she is today. ‘I have always been very intentional about my career and believed that every step should build on the previous one. Things didn’t always work out according to my plans, but it was always a blessing in disguise.’
Buhle found her work passion at the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) where she flourished for seven years. ‘I moved from being an auditor to being a services guru in the credit space to being a turnaround specialist and then a business rescue specialist. Now I am a CFO,’ she smiles.
In 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Buhle became the CFO of BAIC SA – a multi-billion-rand joint venture agreement between the IDC and China’s Beijing Automotive Group to establish a new car manufacturing plant in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape. She is excited about the opportunities this venture will create, not only in terms of economic growth but also with regard to job creation.
She leads her team in the same way she lives her life – inclusively. ‘I learned along the way that I don’t know it all, so I strive to include all my team members. It also makes them feel valued,’ Buhle explains.
Don’t let others hinder your progress
Buhle learnt to never change course because of somebody else. ‘Don’t quit your job or make decisions based on somebody else. Rather learn how to deal with difficult people. As long as you are still happy in your role and have your goals in place, no one else should hinder your progress.’
While working at the IDC, Buhle always needed to work alongside a liquidation lawyer. ‘I needed to demonstrate to my clients that, if they didn’t listen to my solutions, their company would be liquidated.’ She hated always having to wait for the lawyers and therefore started studying insolvency law part-time at the University of Johannesburg while she was pregnant. ‘That was the worst experience and the most difficult course of my life!’ she laughs. ‘During the exam, I was heavily pregnant and so forgetful!’ she remembers. However, through hard work and perseverance Buhle passed and in doing so, made her path towards success that much smoother. ‘I was so much more confident in my work. You couldn’t shake me because I knew very well what the consequences of each action were because I had taken the step to find out the things I didn’t know – to empower and educate myself.’
For her, this was her best decision yet. ‘Whenever I don’t know something and I want to learn about it, I go back to the books or get the support that I need. Find a way to overcome your challenges.’
Her hard work and dedication are paying off. Recently, Buhle was a finalist in the SAICA Chairman Difference Makers Awards in the category Leader in Business – an honour that still takes her breath away. ‘It was the first time ever that I was nominated for an award!’ she says. ‘I was in denial for a long time – almost until I had to get dressed for the ceremony,’ she laughs. ‘I appreciate the recognition of what I am doing in my life to make this world a better place and showed me that I am doing the right thing.’
Buhle firmly believes the accounting profession must start telling more good stories and rather than focusing on the failures and awards such as these, do just that. ‘In South Africa, we need to learn to celebrate the good more than we focus on the bad.’
She lives life to the fullest every single day because she knows tomorrow is never guaranteed. She is a role model to others and inspires people to empower themselves. ‘I feel I’m living my purpose – to be authentically me – and that makes me happy. I just love life!’ she concludes.
The future of CAs(SA) is bright
Buhle’s advice for female CAs(SA) is simple:
- Be confident, critical thinkers. You need to be able to adapt to any type of environment.
- Embrace technology and anticipate an ever-changing world. You need to have the mindset of ‘what’s next’.
- Constantly push boundaries and yourself to become the best you can be.
- The world is your oyster – live it authentically and without regrets.
- Always put your best foot forward.