THE announcement that SA’s first black female chartered accountant, Nonkululeko Gobodo, is stepping down as executive chairwoman of SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG) is a reminder that the African child has the capacity to start and run businesses of a significant nature. It dispelled the notion that black business people only wait for equity stakes in black economic empowerment transactions and never start businesses of their own organically.

When SizweNtsaluba merged with Gobodo in 2011, it transformed into a leading, medium-sized auditing and accounting practice said to be the fifth-largest in the country. It is now taking some of the lunch that was once preserved for the old guard. On top of that, it is attracting respectable talent, some of which has served at senior level in the big four firms.

This year, SNG brought into its fold Peter Goss, a former partner and head of forensics at PwC. Goss is also building up the Forensics Institute, aimed at building forensic professionals. Another recent recruit is Kemp Munnik, who was a tax director at BDO SA and recently a co-owner at African Business Solutions. Munnik is an international business and tax strategist. He has a whole suite of skills aimed at helping businesses that want to start and do sustainable business in the rest of Africa. Part of Munnik’s mandate is to help SNG build a bigger client base in the private sector.

One of the criticisms SNG has faced is that it strongly relies on work from government-related entities. Well, this is because not many private sector companies have contracted SNG and we need to ask why. Among the few private sector clients SNG has serviced are MTN, Standard Bank, Aspen, FirstRand, Alexander Forbes and Total.

I find this criticism about SNG rather rich. Where should they get the jobs from if other private sector companies are not coming to the party?

One of the criticisms SNG has faced is that it strongly relies on work from government-related entities. Well, this is because not many private sector companies have contracted SNG and we need to ask why. Among the few private sector clients SNG has serviced are MTN, Standard Bank, Aspen, FirstRand, Alexander Forbes and Total.

I also find the argument on government reliance a red herring because, during research for a project, I have learnt of at least two big-four law and accounting firms that did work for parastatals during apartheid and no one finds this a problem.

As I said in my column last week, parastatals are key to SA’s transformation project. They help in the construction of skills and businesses, so the government needs to think carefully about how it deals with "nonstrategic assets". The plain truth is that had entities such as Transnet and Eskom not given SNG the opportunity to showcase its skills, the company would arguably not be where it is today. Through work from parastatals, SNG has proved its mettle and this has helped it attract some private companies that might have been reluctant clients.

The news of Gobodo’s decision to step down comes as the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (Abasa) complains about the reversal of transformation gains at KPMG. The issue is the appointment of a white male CEO to replace Moses Kgosana in August next year.

I am a staunch supporter of the argument that company staff and leadership must reflect the demography of its client base and the country. But I was a bit irritated by the Abasa complaint. It reduced transformation to the appointment of a CEO. There are bigger issues than appointing a black CEO and one of these is the creation of a pipeline of black accountants and auditors that will run and create solid business in the future. In Abasa’s statement last week, there was no complaint about this. To an outsider it sounded like a group of friends complaining and waging an agenda because one of their colleagues or friends did not get the job.

Whether its grievance is honest or not, the Abasa crew needs to take a leaf from the likes of SNG, Nkonki or SekelaXabiso. The black-owned professionals did not just whinge about the appointment of CEOs. They rolled their sleeves up and started formidable businesses.

If some of the guys at KPMG and Abasa have an honest grievance about Kgosana’s successor, they must be bold enough to leave and take their skills to SNG, Nkonki and SekelaXabiso and assist with transformation. Alternatively, they must start their own businesses and stop whingeing. I bet few will do this because I know many black professionals look down on black firms and would rather work for white-owned firms, where they can perpetually complain.

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