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Some of the winners of the Saica's inaugural Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards. Picture: Supplied/Saica
Some of the winners of the Saica's inaugural Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards. Picture: Supplied/Saica

It is often said actions speak louder than words. The true measure of leadership lies in the actions we take when inspired by noble causes, dreams and plans to make a difference.

The SA Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) recently recognised 11 of its members at its inaugural Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards dinner. Among those honoured were Professor Wiseman Lumkile Nkuhlu, the first black chartered accountant in SA, Ajen Sita, CEO of Ernst & Young (EY) Africa and the late Thembekile “Kimi” Makwetu, SA’s former auditor-general. 

When Saica launched its Difference Makers organising concept in 2021, in alignment with Chartered Accountant Worldwide’s global brand positioning strategy, the aim was to showcase real-life stories of members making a sustainable difference that yields positive business, social and economic returns for all. A difference that will elevate the accountancy profession, and take SA to new heights.

The Chairman’s Difference Makers Awards dinner, sponsored by Sapro, is a continuation of this project where the organisation hopes to share the stories of its prestigious winners far and wide as part of its efforts to restore trust in the accounting profession.

“As we are all aware, the accounting profession has come under an extreme amount of scrutiny due to the negative actions of a handful of high-profile accountants that have come to light over the past few years,” said Vincent Motholo, chair of the Saica board. 

“While these individuals represent a minuscule proportion of the total membership body of our esteemed profession, these high-profile cases overshadow the excellent work the vast majority of members and associates do to make a difference in their roles, the economy and broader society. But these awards are changing the narrative in a significant way, by ensuring the members’ commitment to driving positive change in the world.”

Today’s accountants do more than look at the numbers. They are business advisers and difference makers in a myriad ways
Vincent Motholo, chair of the Saica board

“At Saica, the members are the difference. Trained to uphold high ethical standards, members and associates are equipped for the future and enabled to make an impact on business and society. This is underpinned by a duty and responsibility to act in the public interest,” said Freeman Nomvalo, Saica CEO.  

“By telling their stories, Saica is showing the world the profession is made of individuals who are purpose-driven to make the world a better place; focused on remaining relevant and fit for the future; and play a valuable role in their organisations and communities. These individuals also live and work with integrity and are focused on making positive changes that are in the public interest.”

There are more than 750,000 CAs and more than a million CA students around the world who do more than look at the numbers. Today’s accountants are business advisers and difference makers in a myriad ways. When the brainstorming for the categories for the Chairman's Difference Makers Awards began, Saica knew it had to find ways to honour as many avenues as possible, where members and associates were making a difference,” said Motholo.

“Eleven overarching themes that fitted this purpose were created. Saica reached out to members and associates who are innovators, future thinkers, those who lead businesses, sustainability, integrity, national interest and more, to find the true difference makers.”

“This year’s winners represent the tip of this iceberg of distinction,” added Motholo. “On behalf of the profession, Saica thanks everyone who entered and those who nominated someone for this year’s awards. The winners and finalists are all exceptional and Saica acknowledges and thanks them for their work.” 

The 11 winners honoured 

1. The Future Fit winner: Shabeer Khan, CFO of the department of trade, industry & competition 

The Future Fit category honours the courageous, unconventional Saica member who doesn't believe in limits and sees every day as an opportunity to be different. Someone who creates the change and opportunity they want to see in the world.

Before Khan joined the department of trade, industry & competition, the department it had never achieved clean audit status. However, after implementing various internal controls and systems improvements, it has achieved many clean audits.

Khan was also lauded for creating a platform for an ethical, resilient and capable department — dedicated to driving continuous change and improvements and laying the foundation for a number of strategic achievements for the betterment of the country. 

2. Innovator winner: Anri Coetzee, global process owner, general ledger at EY Global

The Innovator award honours a Saica member who is known for exploring the boundaries of the possible, venturing beyond the improbable, imagining the way things could be and then finding creating new effective ways to do traditional things.

Coetzee was honoured for the work she’s done in harmonising the global general ledger processes and controls, ensuring adoption of changes and driving optimised quality and cost of delivery through process automation and standardisation.

Most recently, Coetzee was responsible for the development of a new, integrated global journal posting solution aimed at creating operating efficiencies and cost optimisation. 

3. Sustainability winner: Belinda Carreira, director of sustainability at Emergent Africa

The most precious asset all businesses share is the Earth. The efforts individuals and businesses make to sustain this vital resource is necessary and makes good business sense. The Sustainability award honours a difference maker who has made sustainability an integral part of their business; someone who actively aims to help solve the United Nations (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Carreira received this award for two key reasons. The first is for co-founding #SustainableSA in 2020, a project sponsored by Saica, that collaborates with strategic partners and experts to provide focused monthly information on each of the UN 17 SDGs.

The second reason is for setting up and establishing the sustainability advisory business at Emergent Africa, which seeks to ensure all businesses incorporate sustainability into their strategies and that boards and shareholders receive the feedback and insights they need on this crucial topic.

4. Excellence in Education winner: Professor Benjamin Marx, head of the accountancy department at the University of Johannesburg

Exclusively for someone in academia or in the accounting education space, the Excellence in Education award honours someone who has made it their life’s work to make an impact on how future Saica members are educated. 

Marx has been an academic for more than 32 years and has made significant contributions to the chartered accounting profession in addition to championing transformation as well as education on all levels.

5. National Interest winner: Chantyl Mulder, executive of Marketplace Academy

The National Interest category honours a Saica member who is purposely driven to change the lives of others for the better. This award is for a member who understands that we only rise higher when we uplift others in the process. 

With a career spanning just short of 40 years, Mulder — also known as Mother Thuthuka, because of her role in founding Saica's Thuthuka Education Upliftment Fund — is one of the profession’s greatest champions of transformation and education.

This year, the fund celebrates 20 years in existence and has been instrumental in opening up the accounting profession for previously disadvantaged racial groups.

6. Humanitarian winner: Ismael Lambat, GM at the Council For Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)

The Humanitarian award goes to a Saica member who has lived up to the words “servant of the people” and has dedicated his career to improving the welfare of mankind. 

Lambat’s impact as a business leader to influence large scale projects aimed at combating poverty through food security, is renowned.

He has also been instrumental in leveraging professional networks to access corporate social investment (CSI) funds for the benefit of the needy, leading projects on skills development for the underprivileged, and also creating avenues for entrepreneurship.

7. Ethical Leadership winner: Parmi Natesan, CEO of the Institute of Directors SA

The Ethical Leadership award honours a member who chooses courage over comfort and stands up for what is right, regardless of the repercussions.

Natesan is a corporate governance specialist who has authored articles and papers and spoken at conferences and events. She serves on many committees, including the King Committee and the Anti-intimidation and Ethical Practices Forum and is an advocate for Saica’s Unite for Mzansi movement. As part of these structures, Natesan is a champion for good corporate governance as well as ethical and effective leadership. 

8. Courageous Leadership winner: Ignatius Sehoole, CEO of KPMG SA

As the Courageous Leadership winner, Sehoole took on the role of rescuing a sinking ship.

Ignatius Sehoole, CEO of KPMG SA. Picture:Supplied/Saica
Ignatius Sehoole, CEO of KPMG SA. Picture:Supplied/Saica

Sehoole set himself apart as a voice of justice and reason in the business world. This has helped him become one of the most well respected voices in the SA audit profession and the man picked to rebuild a battered KPMG.

He embodies ethical leadership through his belief that a leader must demonstrate conduct for common good in all situations — whether in a business environment or private capacity.

9. Leader in Business winner: Ajen Sita, CEO of EY Africa

The Leader in Business award was the most entered category in this year’s nomination process. It honours a Saica member who develops, influences and leads others to be great.

Throughout his career, Sita has been driven by purpose in the work he does. He said when you are driven by purpose, you always look to make the circle bigger.

“As a leader, you don’t look at anything selfishly for yourself or what's in it for you, but rather how it can be better for the people around you, for the organisation, the business community, country and continent. If you expand your own mindset, horizon and view, you gain perspective to something that's bigger and larger and set yourself ambitious goals,” said Sita. 

10. Leader in Public Accountability winner: Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, the previous auditor-general SA

This special award was not open for entries or nominations. Saica's chairman said it would be remiss not to honour the invaluable contributions Makwetu made to the country during his career. 

Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, the previous auditor-general SA. Picture: Supplied/Saica
Thembekile Kimi Makwetu, the previous auditor-general SA. Picture: Supplied/Saica

Awarded posthumously, the award recognised Makwetu's efforts. 

He sat at the helm of the AGSA for 13 years, first as deputy auditor-general to Terrence Nombembe and then taking over the office.

The quintessential civil servant who took his job as SA’s auditor-general seriously and threw every sinew of his being into it, Makwetu passed away on November 11 2020, having fought stage four lung cancer for two years.

11. Legacy winner: Professor Wiseman Lumkile Nkuhlu, chairperson of KPMG SA and the chancellor of the University of Pretoria

This award recognises someone who’s legacy inspires others to dream, learn, do and become more.

Nkuhlu's story is shared by many and will be remembered for decades. He has left a lasting legacy in minds of the profession, and the country, that will be etched in the history books for decades to come.

As the first black chartered accountant in SA, Nkuhlu is an icon and stalwart of the profession and a leading pioneer. 

While working for more than 40 years, Nkuhlu has played key roles in academia, philanthropy, development, business and politics. 

From being a political prisoner on Robben Island at the age of 19 to being the economic adviser to president Thabo Mbeki, he has been a leading light for inculcating a corporate culture of accountability, ethical business leadership and the advancement and development of  SA. 

This article was paid for by Saica