Pule Mothibe entered the professional services industry just as the barriers for the entrance of black people into the business sector were being removed. Mothibe was also fortunate in that he joined a firm that had visionary leaders who already had a programme in place to advance and train black charterered accountants before it became a national imperative.
Mothibe attributes his success as Head of Human Capital for PwC Southern Africa largely to a blend of leadershipship skills, and being a chartered accountant.
Mothibe was also fortunate to have attended Mmabatho High School, where career guidance was a priority. While at high school in the mid-1980s he undertook to pursue a career where he would make a difference. It was a toss-up between engineeering and accountancy. After a short stint at Wits on an Anglo American bursary to pursue engineering studies, he changed paths and vowed that he would one day become a chartered accountant in honour of his role model Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, the first black African to qualify as a CA.
“When I studied towards my Certificate Theory in Accounting (CTA), there were very few Africans in the Commerce Faculty, let alone those pursuing the accounting route. Passing was not negotiable – the fear of failure also tends to drive one. There was also a gap to bridge as I studied for my Bacherlor of Commerce at a non-accredited university and the difference was apparent.”
Upon completing his CTA Mothibe joined Coopers Theron du Doit, predecessor to PwC, serving his articles from 1993 to 1995 and qualifying as a CA(SA) in 1997.
“On joining Coopers Theron Du Toit in Mahikeng, I was the first African with a CTA, which was a very special feeling. However, it also places one under significant pressure as you are compelled to deliver results. You are an instant role model and mentor. The team we had there was incredible – and with the immeasurable support from the partners, it made it much more bearable,” adds Mothibe.
Mothibe subsequently left PwC to explore opportunities within the private sector, and returned in 2002. A year later he was admitted into the partnership.
Mothibe says one of the biggest achievements in his career was when he lectured part-time at the then University of Bophuthatswana. “This was my alma mater and giving back really fulfilled me. Of course, qualifying as a CA was a dream come true as well. Becoming a partner also felt good but the ultimate highlight in my career was being asked to serve on PwC’s Executive Committee.” Mothibe points out that all these achievements do come third, after his marriage and the birth of his twin girls.
Although there have been some tough times in his career, Mothibe says he wouldn’t change anything. “The experience was well worth it. Perhaps I would have liked to have spent more time on my studies to make sure you succeed the first time round,” he adds.
Mothibe says his father is his greatest role model and mentor in his life: “My father has always believed in the importance of education and he also helped arrange my first vacation stint with the then Price Waterhouse in Mahikeng.”
He adds: “There are also great men like Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu who made us realise that it was possible to achieve success – he was the beacon of light that oversaw our progress.”
Today Mothibe serves as PwC’s Head of Human Capital for Southern Africa and Group Leader of CIPS in Menlyn Park. Among other things, his key role includes developing a strategy for the region and ensuring sound policies in the areas of recruitment, training and development, retention, talent management and reward. Mothibe has years of experience in auditing large clients in both the public and private sectors, multinationals, higher education institutions and IFRS reporting. He is actively involved in PwC’s quality review initiatives, including office and country reviews.
He hopes to still be at PwC within the next five years. “I still harbour dreams of being a farmer – be it subsistence farming. Dr Sam Motsuenyane instilled my love for small-scale agriculture and the ability to utilise the land fruitfully.”
Mothibe is committed to transformation and encourages young people, in particular those in the rural areas, to enter the accounting profession. PwC has a number of initiatives in place that earmarks high-potential learners and students, and provides them with bursaries to study accounting. “This is one of the ways in which we can improve the pipeline of talent in the firm,” he says.
“At PwC, transformation is a business imperative. It’s about ensuring that we have the right people in the right roles, and it affords each of our people the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
“We insist on quality and demonstrate it through our people, our work and our methodologies. We rotate our partners to ensure independence, but work hard at building relationships.”