Beating odds to achieve dream

The most telling thing I notice about Zintle Tshem is the way she signs off her e-mail to me – with CA(SA) in brackets behind her name.

NEWLY GRADUATED: Zintle Tshem is working at the East London office of the Auditor-General now that her studies are complete Picture: FILE
NEWLY GRADUATED: Zintle Tshem is working at the East London office of the Auditor-General now that her studies are complete Picture: FILE

The young professional at the East London office of the Auditor-General of South Africa is the latest chartered accountant to finish her studies, pass the official accounting examinations and formally practice as a CA.

Zintle, 26, was one of many local black accountants who recently completed their studies towards the prized CA qualification.

The latest cohort to pass the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) was feted at a gala function by their employers, which included the provincial AG and government departments as well as top accounting firms in the private sector.

A report last week incorrectly stated that the budding accountants had passed the competency test, “one of the steps on the road to qualifying”. However, the APC is the final qualifying examination to becoming a CA.

Like most black CAs, Tshem has had a challenging path to success, including the death of her mother Bukeka, the family’s breadwinner, forcing her into the role of supporting her loved ones. She also spent longer than the required time to complete both her BCom degree and the Certificate in the Theory of Accounting.

“I had all the reasons to drop out of the CA qualification because it was taking longer than expected and I had a family to support.” But she said she had realised the importance of decision-making at a very young age and also had the benefit of the “positive energy” of “people who crossed my path, and who believed in me and the dream that I had”.

“My mother was one of the people who believed in me so much that I did not want to disappoint her in any way.

“This helped me to stay focused and to aim for one of the highest possible goals in life, because I sought to make her very proud of me.”

Tshem was born and raised in Butterworth, matriculating at Ndabankulu Senior Secondary School in 2006, and decided to study accountancy, thinking that it would be a stepping stone to using computers in her career.

Her biggest challenge was adapting to university lifestyle.

“It was a struggle for me staying on campus with masses of other students, when I was used to just living with my family of four people in our house. When I moved back to East London to stay at home again, studying part-time, I noticed that I never struggled as much as I did while I was a full-time student.

Zintle said she had grown to love business studies from an early age to the point when she was introduced to “the high level of sophistication and respect” the accountancy profession has earned globally.

She has been working for four years already and said that in 10 years’ time she would like to be running a family business, while serving on the boards of various companies.

Zintle had a simple message for today’s pupils and students: Find the reason for your existence because it will give you courage every day to overcome the challenges that you will encounter. —