Sunday Tribune

Show­ing way up and out

Achiev­ing against all odds and pas­sion­ate about in­spir­ing oth­ers are this busi­ness­woman’s life. Liz Clarke finds out what makes her tick

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SURROUNDED­by rolling hills, aca­cia trees, tum­bling wa­ter­falls and nat­u­ral forests, En­gonya­meni, just 30km south of Dur­ban, has some idyl­lic scenery.

But con­cealed within its picturesqu­e land­scape are small shanty vil­lages where poverty and de­pri­va­tion pre­vail.

A par­tic­u­lar home­stead, tucked away in a ru­ral val­ley, far from the bus­tle of city life, was once home to a thir­tysome­thing busi­ness­woman, fast be­com­ing one of South Africa’s most up­wardly mo­bile movers and shak­ers.

Ul­tra-smart, busi­ness-chic Bu­sisiwe Mdlet­she to­day leads her own com­pany in Joburg, Btmt Cap­i­tal, deal­ing in ac­count­ing, tax and ad­vice.

Her fo­cus is to en­sure full tax com­pli­ance and ex­am­ine the tax im­pact of in­vest­ment and re­tire­ment de­ci­sions. She also looks at the tax and for­eign ex­change im­pli­ca­tions of off­shore in­vest­ments.

Re­cently ac­claimed by the on­line pub­li­ca­tion In­spired Africa, Mdlet­she was men­tored by in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed busi­ness­woman Phuti Ma­hanyele, the reign­ing Forbes Africa Busi­ness­woman of the Year.

It would be un­der­stand­able, im­mersed as she is, in the high­pow­ered world of big busi­ness, to forget her KZN roots and em­brace the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of a large city life­style.

“But I can never forget the peo­ple, my fam­ily and friends I grew up with,” she says, “even in dif­fi­cult times. They re­main part of my heart and soul.”

So much so that run­ning par­al­lel with her im­pres­sive ca­reer path is a mis­sion that gives “real mean­ing” to her life.

Mdlet­she is founder and leader of the BusiM Foun­da­tion, an ini­tia­tive she says was mo­ti­vated by a re­turn visit to her birth­place and the class­rooms that in­spired her to strive for greater things.

“Liv­ing in a poor com­mu­nity, like the one in which I grew up, of­ten lim­its your per­cep­tions of what is pos­si­ble. High schools strive for ex­cel­lent re­sults, but few pupils make it to ter­tiary level. I hope my foun­da­tion can change that.”

Her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of grow­ing up in a re­source-poor area is in­te­grally wo­ven into that drive for change.

Raised by a fac­tory worker, Basil Khekhe Ma­jozi, and do­mes­tic worker mother, Joyce Sholiphi Sibisi, Mdlet­she is the el­dest of eight sib­lings.

“My par­ents never mar­ried so I did not grow up in a proper fam­ily set-up with both par­ents,” she says. “I was con­stantly mov­ing be­tween rel­a­tives. That mo­ti­vated me to re­main fo­cused at school as I con­sid­ered that my ticket to get out of poverty.”

She se­cured a univer­sity en­try matric pass, but her fa­ther could not af­ford to en­roll her at the Univer­sity of KZN.

“I had a won­der­ful step­mother, who ad­vised my fa­ther to take early re­tire­ment from his fac­tory job to with­draw from his pen­sion fund and set­tle my var­sity fees. My dad and my step­mother’s fam­ily all joined hands in fund­ing my higher ed­u­ca­tion”

She ad­mits, how­ever, that a lack of funds led to her con­cen- tra­tion lev­els at var­sity de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. “But I tried to keep my eye on the ball,” she says.

Notwith­stand­ing the con­straints, Mdlet­she ob­tained her bach­e­lor of ac­coun­tancy, au­dit­ing and tax­a­tion from UKZN.

Fi­nan­cial man­age­ment (Pre­to­ria Univer­sity) and fi­nan­cial and crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions (IRS-USA) were among post­grad­u­ate de­grees that fol­lowed.

Her long-term aim is to sup­port the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to en­sure pupils who reach tar­get pass rates pursue their dreams at ter­tiary level.

“Our vi­sion is to groom pupils who can be en­trepreneur­s. Most goods are made in China, Ja­pan, Cal­i­for­nia, France etcetera. We hardly find any­thing made in SA, be­cause of a lack of tech­nol­ogy. We want to pro­mote IT as an ex­tra sub­ject in schools.”

She aims to hold ca­reer week events ev­ery year where pro­fes­sion­als from var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions can ad­vise pupils on ca­reer choices.

The first steps on that jour­ney be­gan on April 16 when a num­ber of aca­demic, commerce and busi­ness stake­hold­ers con­verged on En­gonya­meni in sup­port of Mdlet­she’s ed­u­ca­tion mis­sion.

“Pupils need to be en­cour­aged and in­spired to be­come achiev­ers post- matric.”

No­ble ideas are of­ten far re­moved from re­al­ity and Mdlet­she gives a wry smile re­count­ing the grow­ing pains that ac­com­pany the set­ting up of a non-profit foun­da­tion.

“But I thought, be brave. I ap­proached Ton­gaat-Hulett with my ca­reer guidance ideas, hop­ing and pray­ing they would come along with me. They agreed to as­sist, which was be­yond ex­cit­ing.”

Soon more or­gan­i­sa­tions came to the party, in­clud­ing Bow­man Gil­fil­lan, the SA In­sti­tute of Char­tered Ac­coun­tants, UKZN schools of medicine and ed­u­ca­tion, Man­go­suthu Univer­sity, Naidu Con­sult­ing En­gi­neers, SA Property Char­ter and the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works.

“I think this tiny vil­lage has, for the first time, seen the pos­si­bil­ity that ac­coun­tants; ac­tu­ar­ies and lawyers could come from their area.

“This will be an an­nual event, teach­ing young peo­ple to make the right choices in life. In 2016 we will not only fo­cus on KZN but will be pro­vid­ing ca­reer guidance and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to pupils in the East­ern Cape, Gaut­eng and Lim­popo.”

But she ac­cepts chal­lenges re­main. “Most young peo­ple in a vil­lage like mine

 ??  ?? Bu­sisiwe Mdlet­she is
on a mis­sion to ed­u­cate the youth.
Bu­sisiwe Mdlet­she is on a mis­sion to ed­u­cate the youth.
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