Tennyson Botes, who was recently appointed interim CEO of the Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA), shares his journey toward attaining South Africa’s premier business designation, Chartered Accountant South Africa (CA(SA))
For 18 years now, the Thuthuka bursary has been empowering South Africa’s youth from previously disadvantaged communities with educational support to pursue the accountancy profession as a career. One of the beneficiaries, Tennyson Botes (31), is an excellent example of how effective the initiative has been since its establishment.
Born in East London, Botes says he was always surrounded by academics and sports fanatics. His father, a pastor, was the residence head of the then Bellville Teachers College, which is now known as the Western Cape College of Education. ‘As a kid, this exposed me largely to a religious and student life, because I was always among students and interacting with people who played sport. I had access to a big cricket and rugby field as well as an athletics track to explore and be active. My mother was also a teacher. Essentially, education played a big role in my childhood as well.’
He says that given that background, he probably would have become a cricketer. However, it was the great sense of purpose and meaning he acquired from meeting qualified CAs(SA) while in high school that shed light into why Botes decided to pursue the CA(SA) route instead. ‘They were always resourceful, and I was inspired by how well educated they came across. The CA(SA) designation has an impact. As for me, as a religious person I wanted to become a CA(SA) to use the designation for God’s glory. I also saw it as a steppingstone to give back and be that motivation to my community. The greater sense for me is that there was a bigger purpose.’
The university journey
After matriculating from Paarl Boys’ High School in 2006, Botes took a gap year and in 2007 travelled through England where he coached and played cricket at Oundle Town School and Cricket Club. It was in this time that his father came across SAICA’s Thuthuka bursary. ‘While I was in England, my dad told me about the Thuthuka Bursary Fund. He sent me application forms to complete along with my profile and then we submitted to SAICA. I always knew that I had to study when I returned to South Africa.’
He vividly recalls the first time he set foot at Stellenbosch University with his father to enrol for his BCom Accounting undergraduate programme. ‘The gentleman assisting us with enrolment at the time looked at my application form and said to me I might want to also tick off the BCom General field, because not everybody makes it into the Bachelor of Accounting programme. That was, in hindsight, my biggest motivation that day.’
When Botes’ application was accepted, his parents accompanied him to the induction day. ‘They took us into the hall and the same gentleman that I met during my enrolment said to us, “Look left and look right, only one of you will make it into the Bachelor of Accounting Honours class at the end of your studies at Stellenbosch.”’
It was his competitive mindset that ensured these odds didn’t deter him. He was encouraged by the fact that he had a family of other Thuthuka students with him on the journey. ‘SAICA and Thuthuka took a risk on me. Everything they knew about me was on paper and based on the profile I had submitted. I wondered how an organisation invests such a lot of money and not be certain of their return on investment. That inspired me and kept me going.’
In 2008, at the end of his first year, Botes was awarded a Golden Key Award in recognition for his excellent academic performance – being among the top 15% of students in his stream of study at the university at the time. Part of the Thuthuka conditions is that he had to be a student resident on campus, which resulted in him becoming an academic mentor at Metanoia Residence in 2009 and 2010. ‘I saw this as giving back, because I believed that someone else must also succeed in this process.’
Botes passed his undergraduate studies as well as his honours degree the first time. However, he says it wasn’t all rosy as there were some challenges he had to learn to overcome. ‘Receiving lectures in Afrikaans at Stellenbosch University was not easy. The textbook became my greatest guide as well as the relationships built with fellow students to help each other understand lessons every day. I knew I had to go the extra mile and ensure that I caught up by the end of the day.’
Transition from university to work
After he completed his undergraduate programme in 2012, Botes was placed for his training contract at the Auditor-General South Africa (AGSA) office in the Western Cape where he served as a trainee auditor.
He says his experience at AGSA gave him a sense of purpose of how he could add value. In 2015, he was appointed an assistant audit manager. It was in August 2016 when Botes decided to end his journey with the AGSA and pursue an audit of his personal life. He decided to take a three-month break to spend some quality time with his family and in the process got engaged to his wife, Tania. Today, they are the proud parents of a 16-month-old daughter, Grace Zoë.
In January 2017, Botes joined the WPCA as its finance manager and after just three years, he was appointed interim CEO of the WPCA at the end of April 2020. The game of cricket has always been an intimate part of his life. He has been a representative player on various levels throughout his career. Joining the WPCA was like a reunion. ‘It is an amazing full-circle role. It puts a lot of things into perspective. For example, when I was playing mini cricket as a young boy, I never understood what happens at an administrative level when Cricket South Africa allocates funding to the provincial level to execute their duties. The funding that we receive is not always adequate to see to the extent of our needs. The challenge is what are we from our side as an association going to do to see how we can contribute to our mandate.’
The WPCA manages a total of 116 high schools, 68 clubs, and 423 club teams consisting of 5 361 male players and 425 female players. With the KFC Mini Cricket, the WPCA works with 243 primary schools and 11 074 players making up 443 teams. ‘For an association to be able to manage the structure and layout isn’t easy. For me, the underlying thing is a sense of giving back. My philosophy is that when you lead, be sure to leave leadership imprints that are deep enough, so that when it rains those who follow in your paths can quench their thirst and that’s what Thuthuka did for me. Therefore, being a leader of the Western Province Cricket Association is all my way of giving back to communities.’
With Botes as part of the team, the WPCA reached greater heights. The association was rated second overall on the Cricket SA scorecard and has been leading in the hubs programme. ‘If we reflect on players who made it onto the Proteas test and One Day International teams and the South African A-team, there were a number of Cape Cobras young players. We are proud of that.’
Encouragement to current Thuthuka students
Current Thuthuka students who are in the pipeline of studying towards qualifying as CAs(SA) are encouraged by Botes to live by the quote of John Maxwell: ‘The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change and the leader adjusts the sails.’
‘Students pursuing this designation can tell you what that wind means. For example, those who studied at Stellenbosch University will know the term “BRek week” (a term for when you write examinations on all your modules in one week). The pursuing must be of a greater cause, becoming selfless and not delving into the status of being qualified, but realising that the opportunities and influence that one will have to make a difference in someone else’s life,’ Botes adds.