After 37 years in the profession, Chantyl Mulder – also known as Mother Thuthuka, thanks to her role in founding the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund – is moving on to new challenges. The former Executive Director for Learning, Development and National Imperatives at SAICA reflects on her time as one of the profession’s greatest champions of transformation
It’s difficult to single out one highlight from a career that encompasses many, but there is one beautiful moment that stands out for Chantyl: the day a group of former Thuthuka bursary recipients gathered together to show off the gorgeous cars they had bought themselves. ‘It was special because when they were battling through their studies, I used to remind them that the sacrifice would be worth it – that one day, they would be driving amazing cars that would make everyone else jealous!’ she says.
The privilege of being able to help people realise their potential – of helping them make the most of their skills and talents – is the most precious memory she holds of her time in the profession.
A SERENDIPITOUS START
Chantyl’s name may have become synonymous with education and training in the accounting profession, but as a young auditor starting her journey with what was then the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB, now the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors, IRBA) back in 1984, she had no inkling that this would be the case. ‘I was headhunted for the position of education officer while working as a manager at KPMG,’ she recalls, laughing at how it took three months for her to finally decide that she would take the post.
After years of honing her understanding of professional education, through duties such as overseeing university accreditation and monitoring, reviewing the curriculum, accreditation and monitoring the training offices and programmes and then setting the qualifying examinations, Chantyl and the rest of her unit (‘all four of us at the time!’) were asked if they would like to become a part of SAICA. At the time, the education and training functions of CAs(SA) were to be moved to SAICA, while the IRBA would regulate SAICA. Although she could have stayed on at the IRBA in a regulatory role, Chantyl’s preference for setting up processes motivated her to make the move – and so, on 1 January 1999, she became part of the SAICA team.
It was at this point that Chantyl, together with her colleague Steve McGregor and the chair of the then SAICA Education Committee started getting involved with setting education and training standards at an international level, working with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). ‘Our work was ground-breaking: we were playing with all the international accountancy bodies of the time and setting prequalification education and training standards from an international perspective,’ she recalls.
Chantyl left her mark on the industry in other ways, too: she introduced tiering to the profession while still working at the PAAB and established the related education and training standards, paving the way for the establishment of general accountants and accounting technicians.
Thuthuka is born
Chantyl’s favourite project, Thuthuka, got its start in 2000 when SAICA appointed its first-ever African CEO, Ignatius Sehoole. ‘Ignatius called me into his office and asked me to create a solution to the profession’s slow rate of transformation,’ she recalls. She had no idea how to tackle the challenge, she admits, but made it her first priority.
Working with Gugu Makhanya (now Executive: Stakeholder Engagement / Relations ), Lwando Bantom (project director) Ethel Nhlapo (project manager) and Nthato Selebi (project director), she plotted a new strategy – a process which took two years. Thuthuka, the outcome of that process, was launched at a school in the Eastern Cape at a ceremony attended by former President Nelson Mandela.
Chantyl remembers that, despite this exciting and hopeful start, many members of the profession expressed their doubt in the project’s longevity – ‘after all, we were a small team, with no experience in project management’. In her signature style, she refused to let this get to her – and it wasn’t long before she had secured R67 million from the National Skills Foundation through the Finance and Accounting Services Sector Education and Training Authority (FASSET). ‘Thuthuka was like an aeroplane we built while we were flying, but this didn’t stop it from going from strength to strength,’ she enthuses.
Partnering first with the University of Fort Hare, Thuthuka’s influence saw it join forces next with the University of the North, then Walter Sisulu University, the University of Zululand and the University of Venda; sometimes investing up to seven years in helping the institution in question gain accreditation. All are now accredited to offer a BCom, while some have also earned postgraduate accreditation.
It was hard work that came with a hefty price tag (with each project costing in the region of R200/300 million), but for Chantyl, it was worth every cent: ‘It’s been incredibly exciting to know that we have been able to change the lives of children from underprivileged backgrounds,’ she says. ‘Most people would have been daunted by the magnitude of the task facing us but watching these students flourish was my greatest joy.’ It’s this, even more than the fact that Thuthuka has become a household name or the fact that the profession’s rate of transformation has been recognised as lightyears ahead of others’, that makes Chantyl most proud. ‘I loved every minute of my time in the profession,’ she reflects. ‘I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and go to work. It wasn’t just a job; it was a passion.’
A KEY CONTRIBUTION
Chantyl’s contribution to the profession doesn’t end there: she also brought The Hope Factory into the SAICA stable and worked with her team to introduce SAICA Enterprise Development, which focuses on SMME development.
She served on many committees, including the Presidential B-BBEE Empowerment Advisory Council (a position she held for two terms) and was heavily involved in the area of skills development for the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC). Chantyl played a pivotal role in drafting the CA profession’s codes (known as the CA Charter) and reported regularly to the Department of Trade and Industry regarding progress.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Now that she’s retired, she’s pouring her passion into another project: the Marketplace Academy, an initiative which aims to equip unemployed youth with workplace skills. This NPO works closely with churches, leveraging off their footprint within communities, to achieve this goal – and although Chantyl admits that she feels ‘totally outside of my comfort zone’, she is also energised by the challenge ahead. ‘We have spoken at length about youth unemployment and written a lot of laws, but we have yet to solve the problem. I hope this project goes some way to doing this.’
While this may be new territory, Chantyl is used to extending her skill set. This is something she has done before, when working with Sizwe Nxasana to help ‘the missing middle’ students access funds for their studies. The Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP), the vehicle established in 2017 to provide this assistance, has become a fully-fledged entity in its own right, complete with its own board and CEO. It has, moreover, provided over a thousand bursaries to make it possible for students to acquire scarce skills in fields such as medicine and actuarial science along the way.
Chantyl’s advice for aspiring CAs(SA)?
‘I still think that CAs have the best skills set in the world – in spite of the hiccups we’ve experienced in recent years,’ she insists. ‘Having worked in the profession for 37 years, I have seen the development of a foundation so strong that our CAs can do absolutely anything they want.’ Chantyl maintains that, with the introduction of CA2025, encouraging professionals to hone soft skills and acumen, there is even more reason to feel proud of the training our CAs(SA) receive. ‘I suspect our academic centres will need some time to catch up, but we are taking an active role in nurturing the skills required in this new world, where it’s business unusual – skills like critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity,’ she says.
Equally important are initiatives introduced by SAICA, such as Courageous Conversations and Unite 4 Mzansi™, encouraging young professionals to tackle difficult issues like corruption. ‘These initiatives give us a platform for uniting against wrongdoing and speaking truth to power. That’s critical, because I believe the profession has a leading role to play in South Africa’s fight against corruption.’
Her attitude shows that while she may no longer be actively involved in the profession, her spirit of perseverance and her determination to ensure the profession upholds the highest standards will continue to shape its path forward.
WORDS OF APPRECIATION
It was such a privilege to work with Chantyl. I was part of her team right from the start of the Thuthuka project.
Our first trip to the Eastern Cape is very close to my heart. We had had lively conversations in the car, often about religion and her firm beliefs as a devoted Christian.
Right from the beginning of Thuthuka, she had a clear overall goal: to make the CA(SA) designation more representative of the country’s demographics.
She started by implementing various measures to improve the high school results for Maths, English and Accountancy in the Eastern Cape by arranging classes for teachers and learners for Maths, English and Accountancy.
She also focused on Historically Disadvantaged Institutions – most of which have either achieved part or full SAICA accreditation. Almost all public universities have now a Thuthuka project providing wrap-around support to students − support provided with the funding that she wasn’t ashamed to beg or borrow for, even engaging a Minister where needed. She fought every fight she knew would be to the students’ advantage.
Chantyl will always be known as the mother of Thuthuka – fighting ground-breaking battles and loving engaging from her heart with the students.
I have worked with Chantyl for more than 15 years, and she is someone who has made a massive contribution to the CA profession in this country. Whether she is developing an interest in the profession at school level, ensuring that the universities have the correct curriculum to train prospective CAs(SA), to the setting of the Board Exam and working with firms to ensure that they are providing the right environment for trainees, the majority of CAs(SA) in South Africa in some form or another owe a debt of gratitude to Chantyl for the work she has done to develop and design the experience behind the scenes.
What may not be known to many is the deep commitment that Chantyl has to transformation, not only to the CA profession but to many professions across the country. I have had first-hand experience of this working with Chantyl on the Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund. She has worked tirelessly in this regard, whether playing a direct role on Presidential Advisory Councils, designing various BEE codes, establishing a support programme for finance skills across municipalities, or raising funds for tertiary education. Today, I believe it is fair to say that the largest majority of Black African chartered accountants have graduated through Thuthuka, of which Chantyl is a founder.
For me personally, Chantyl stands out as someone with a strong personality, a clear sense of what she wants to do and a solid ability to pull teams together for a project. I have learned a lot working with Chantyl and always enjoyed our engagement. I wish her all of the best in her future endeavours.
Thank you, Chantyl, for giving the CA(SA) profession the best years of your life. Your era as a member of the SAICA Executive Leadership team where you spearheaded Education and later Nation Building, was marked by unprecedented progress in the transformation of the profession and continuous improvement of the relevance and quality of the CA(SA) designation.
We salute you for your passion, compassion, diligence, integrity, courage, leadership and intellectual sharpness.
You leave SAICA better positioned to respond to the erosion of its reputation as a consequence of some members being implicated in state capture and corruption and we salute the work you had begun under SAICA’s Unite 4 Mzansi™ banner in this regard.
May God continue to bless and guide you as you move to the next stage of your life.
I have known Chantyl Mulder for more than 30 years − initially when she was part of the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB) responsible for the CA(SA) exams and I was struggling to qualify as a CA(SA) during the deep dark days of apartheid. As members of ABASA, we saw everybody who was part of the qualification process, including Chantyl, as adversaries. It was only later after I qualified as a CA(SA) that I began to know and understand the important role which Chantyl was playing in transforming the accounting profession and driving inclusivity.
I have said on many occasions that through Chantyl’s visionary leadership, contagious energy, passion and drive, she has single-handedly transformed the accounting profession. This, and the successes that Chantyl achieved, has made it easy for SAICA to gain support from many influential individuals and corporations which has positioned the South African accounting profession as a pre-eminent profession in South Africa and the rest of the world.
Amongst many achievements, Chantyl led the process of creating the Thuthuka Bursary Fund and Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund, the accreditation of Historically Disadvantaged Institutions (HDIs), and the support and partnerships between SAICA and various government department which led to the creation of the Nation Building Division within SAICA. Chantyl’s role at SAICA has significantly positioned the accounting profession as a significant player in driving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in South Africa.
As she moves to her new chapter in addressing youth unemployment, I have no doubt that Chantyl will play a significant role in finding solutions to the challenges of unemployed youth in South Africa.
In her role at SAICA and through her involvement with the Thuthuka Education Upliftment and Bursary Fund and ISFAP, Chantyl Mulder has made a significant contribution to the transformation of the profession. Her efforts have contributed tremendously to transforming the profession to be representative of the different race groups and genders.
Chantyl is very passionate about education, transformation and upholding the standards of the profession. Thank you, Chantyl, for your contributions towards transforming the profession − your dedication and passion stood out and will be remembered. Without your efforts many underprivileged students would not have had the opportunity to join the profession.
An added fact specific to me and Wits is that Chantyl was very much a part of two new programmes: the Chief Value Officer (CVO) Higher Diploma in Accounting (HDipAcc and the Postgraduate Diploma in Accountancy online for the final-year students. Her passion will always be remembered.
Chantyl has devoted her life to serving the accountancy profession and she served this profession with distinction! Her dedication and professionalism are unparalleled. I have yet to meet someone as passionate about their work as Chantyl is, and she has made many sacrifices for this profession to succeed.
We are going to miss her, and I don’t think we are going to find someone of her calibre anytime soon. Her retirement marks the end of an era in our profession.
Wishing her all the best in her future endeavours, I know that she will turn whatever she undertakes into a success!
To Mama Thuthuka:
Where do I even begin!!! I would start by saying that they could never be any other Chantyl Cynthia Mulder, known to me as Mah. What a phenomenal woman − Mama Action, as some would fondly call you. What you see is what you get.
Our relationship was filled with mixed emotions and moments like any other relationship: the good, the bad and the ugly. I chose to focus on the good. Thank you for all that you did for me; you kept every promise you’ve ever made. You made me who I am today.
You threw me in a very deep end and pushed me even beyond what I thought was my capabilities. In your own words, you’d say, ‘Gugu, one day when I’m not here who is going to do this?’ You told us it’s in our hands and you allowed us to develop and thrive. You let us create limitless stakeholder relations and allowed us to nurture them, which we did diligently.
There is so much I can write about you, Mah, but today I just want to say thank you for the teachings, the laughter, the tears and the experience of having you as my boss, my mother, my fashionista and my hero. I am so happy we are writing a second Thuthuka book where a lot of memories would be captured, and they all have your DNA. There could never be any other Chantyl Cynthia Mulder …
Happy farewell, Chan. I’m so glad that I was part of your vision in changing the lives of black children.
Working under your guidance and support has been a great pleasure. I will keep your gesture forever in my heart. Thank you for everything. I wish you good health and wealth. Stay blessed.
Chantyl by her nature is a force! She commanded a room and taught us women in her team to not be fearful of doing the same. Her ability to balance family, work and life while still producing excellence is a testament to the fact that women are able, capable and should not apologise for being who they are but should stand tall and own it.
The small things that Chan did always stood out to me. Every morning when she arrived, she would greet each person until she gets to her own office. She always ensured that people know that she has a great team behind her and she is not working alone. Chantyl would always take the opportunity to recognise and thank her team. She was not afraid to empower her team and gave us opportunities, which have developed us to be where we are today.
Very few people get a chance to live their passions. However, she did that every day and dedicated her life to growing and developing others in various ways. There truly will never be anyone like Chantyl Cynthia Mulder!
Thank you for being you, for your passion, for grooming excellence in us and showing us that women can and should be powerful too. Most importantly, thank you for showing that allowing others to shine makes your own light shine brighter.
I have known Chantyl since I was a Thuthuka Bursary student and remember the encouraging messages she would send or say while talking to us. She has always been invested in making a change in the country. And over the last few years, I have worked closely with her and saw, first hand, the passion for change through skills development. She has been one person who has never been afraid to ‘roll up her sleeves’ in ensuring change. Most notably she has done so much for this country by ensuring that those who are in the most vulnerable parts of our country also have access to quality education. This she has done through the capacity development programmes we run within SAICA. Today, many proudly use the CA(SA) designation and it’s all because she invested in the county. Dear Chantyl, I wish you all the best in your retirement – well, you know very well that you will never retire. May God bless you.
To my beloved Chan:
There really is no one like you. Not only are you an absolute firecracker, but your love and passion for getting the best out of people is palpable in everything you do.
From our very first interaction, you opened your heart and nurtured my every, not in my work life here at SAICA but in my personal life too. And I know it isn’t only me that you’ve done this for.
It’s an exceptional quality to make those around you not only believe in your vision for a better tomorrow but to get them to work together to achieve that vision without feeling that you work for someone but rather feeling as though you work with someone. The immeasurable strides you have made to making higher education accessible to all are testimony to a lifetime served living your passion and the number of lives you have touched and will continue to touch because of your efforts are beyond count.
I can’t imagine SAICA without you ma, but thanks to your exceptional leadership, passion for upskilling your team and the vision you have entrenched in each of us, you have left SAICA in the best possible position to make truly transformed and demographically representative profession a reality.
I am humbled and thankful to have been a small part of your journey, ma. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
A mother who says it as is but also ensures that one is holistically developed. Open-hearted in that she listens and takes time to respond even though harshly so, but comes back with that which makes colleagues understand and be able to take charge of any assignment given to them. She takes mistakes as a learning curve and pushes employees to take responsibility and correct themselves. A true leader, developer, go-getter and believer in always winning.
One of the goals you had was to make Thuthuka a household name. Your hard work and tireless efforts made it the leading model on student funding and skills development in the country and the world. Countless lives have been transformed because of your passion and tenacity. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’
I have had the privilege to work with Chantyl at SAICA since 1999 when she joined after transferring from The IRBA.
It has been a journey of great discovery to experience Chantyl’s drive and determination in implementing education and training standards, implementing transformation growth through the Thuthuka Programme as well as the Nation Building projects that she lead.
Chantyl has contributed significantly to facilitating the protection and growth of the CA(SA) designation brand footprint as well as the SAICA reputation through the initiatives she has innovated and lead. This has provided the SAICA Brand Team with relevant initiatives that we could use in our marketing and communication activities to maintain the relevance of the designation in the market place.
Working with Chantyl has been a revelation given her leadership qualities. We did not always agree on everything which resulted in some debate but I am pleased to say that she never ever carried grudges regarding our agreement to differ in opinion on some matters. She is the most determined person I know of to improve the economic well-being of less privileged individuals.
Over the years she has become not only a work colleague but a friend and as such I have been very blessed to discover the sister that I never had.
I wish Chantyl a very happy and fulfilling retirement and I am sure that she will identify new challenges as she is a person who will always pursue new dreams.
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