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Lead: Profile: Introducing Godfrey Mongatane CA(SA)

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Introducing Godfrey Mongatane CA(SA)

These words by America’s first black president echo the sentiments and drive of Godfrey Mongatane, a proud recipient of The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF). Mongatane is a technical learning
manager at the Office of the Auditor-General, and a recently qualified chartered accountant CA(SA).

The TBF was established in 2005 by SAICA. Thuthuka facilitates the journey of disadvantaged black and coloured students hoping to qualify as CAs(SA), thereby contributing to transformation and growth within this sector.

It’s a unique fund for accounting students, which ensures that students receive experienced mentorship and additional lectures, and helps them bridge the gaps between high school and university, and between university and the world of work.

About 1 200 Thuthuka students are currently attending nine universities across the country. The first 26 students qualified as CAs(SA) in early 2012. A second batch of approximately 50 students will qualify in 2013.

Mongatane epitomises the Thuthuka spirit of resilience and of “putting back”. A CA(SA) that hated mathematics and accounting in high school? “I hated maths and accounting in high school because I was failing them, but chose to do commercial subjects as a challenge to myself. I was good at physics and figured there isn’t much to learn there, so I took accounting.”

It is this spirit of facing challenges that can be attributed to his phenomenal success. “I was very reserved and was therefore bullied and teased because I came from a very poor family, and didn’t have shoes or would wear old, worn-out clothes. But I did get
along with everyone,” says Mongatane. However, the bullying and teasing did not break his spirit. Ironically, it spurred him on to achieve greatness.

He is proud of the three distinctions he received at the end of his matric year – a record that has not been broken at Fred Ledwaba Comprehensive School in Mokopane, the school that Mongatane attended. During a recent visit to the school, Mongatane
expressed his disappointment at the fact that nobody had yet broken his record after eight years. “Things have changed a lot since 2004. You guys have access to information freely, and yet the record remains. What’s your excuse?” asked Mongatane. He posed a challenge to the matriculants to break that record this year.

While he was at school, he took on odd jobs and this helped him to purchase mathematics study guides. “I was hopeless at maths in Grade 10 and failed it several times. But my motto was: if they can do it, so can I.” The ‘they’ refers to senior students and peers who excelled at maths. Mongatane joined these individuals and they assisted him in demystifying the maths conundrum to such an extent that today he is adept at maths.

Was it solely the Thuthuka spirit that spurred Mongatane on to work tirelessly to excel at his job and to devote most of his spare time to coaching and mentoring learners, with the focus on helping them succeed in life? This selfless initiative is not focused only on the CA(SA) career path. “I am passionate about encouraging young people to overcome challenges by sharing my life story and the stories of others who motivated me to get to where I am today.

I have a lecturing background and am very passionate about sharing knowledge.” He attributes his success to many credible role
models. Being one of seven children, he lost his father in 1990 when he was three years old, and most of his upbringing was taken care of by his mother, an industrious street vendor.

“My mother is a people’s person who has raised us well to help others wherever and however we can. I have overcome a lot of challenges in life and have developed a passion for helping people overcome hurdles in their own lives.”
When most people would give up hope, Mongatane was determined to soldier on, and then came the proverbial manna. The TBF offered Mongatane a pathway to becoming a CA(SA) – a sought-after designation.

“Besides paying for school fees, books and accommodation, the TBF also invested in developing my personal skills, and made me a well-rounded person. We were taken on work readiness camps in order to bridge the gap between what we learn at school and the realities we will face at work. At the University of Johannesburg, we had a psychologist who was always available to assist us in improving our marks. I completed my studies at the University of Limpopo, however. I was encouraged to lead high school camps and also to mentor, tutor and develop the first-year students in the programme. The TBF coordinators were always available to hear our issues and assist accordingly. The TBF is what the youngsters need today,” says Mongatane.

Apart from his mother and the TBF, Mongatane also attributes his success to strong role models. “My cousin, Themba Matlou, and schoolmate, Thabo Kekana CA(SA), mentored me throughout my years of pursuing the CA(SA) dream. My former manager,
Tshepiso Poho, a CA(SA), supported me throughout my articles and trained me on how to be an effective manager.

I enjoyed the experience of shadowing him and this helped me tremendously,” says Mongatane. Mongatane has made an impact on many of the students and trainees whom he has mentored. This is what they say about him: “His approach and study methods were really helpful. He would say that I must read the required in full, plan my solution, and then start writing. If I get stuck, I must take a few minutes to think things through, and if nothing comes to mind, I must move on to the next question. That was good advice that worked.” – Buyelwa Precious Tsoanyane

“Godfrey has been my mentor since I joined the office. My ability to do well academically and professionally is due to his faith in my potential, more than anything. Even when times were rough, he was one person who could see the positives in my negatives. He has been extremely supportive during my CTA year, to the extent that he will entertain my queries well into the middle of the night. He is a leader who the office should do everything to retain.”
– Sibusiso Mlotshwa

The spirit of wanting to help individuals is reflected in Mongatane’s ambition to be a lecturer, 20 years hence. “To all the young people out there, especially budding CAs(SA), what is your excuse? If you want something badly enough, you should work
hard and set your sights on this goal. Aim high and you will achieve success.”

Nthato Selebi, project director: TBF at SAICA, who has seen Mongatane grow and gotten to know him well during his journey to success, says: “Godfrey reflects the true spirit of Thuthuka. He has gone far beyond his circumstances in order to achieve great heights.

However, he has not forgotten where he came from. This is reflected in his selfless pursuit of assisting others from his home town, Mokopane, who are in the same position as he once was. As a group leader at the Thuthuka camps, Godfrey proved his prowess
as a born leader when he assumed responsibility, culminating in the resounding success of the camps.”

SAICA’s primary objective in creating the TBF in 2005 was to transform the profession so that it reflects the demographics of the country. However, this remarkable programme has achieved phenomenal success by creating leaders and magnanimous
individuals who embrace the Thuthuka spirit of giving back to communities and of lifting deserving students
out of poverty, propelling them to great heights.

Godfrey Mongatane is a shining individual who has embraced and is bent on giving back wholeheartedly to the Thuthuka ethos.

Author: Yuven Gounden