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UP chancellor’s medal awarded to Nonkululeko Gobodo, SA’s first black woman CA UP chancellor’s medal awarded to Nonkululeko Gobodo, SA’s first black woman CA
“Wherever you are and whichever job or profession you are in, do your part!” These are the words of Nonkululeko Gobodo who, in 1987,... UP chancellor’s medal awarded to Nonkululeko Gobodo, SA’s first black woman CA

“Wherever you are and whichever job or profession you are in, do your part!” These are the words of Nonkululeko Gobodo who, in 1987, became the first black woman in South Africa to qualify as a chartered accountant (CA).
Gobodo was recently awarded the Chancellor’s Medal by the University of Pretoria’s (UP’s) Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) during its autumn MBA graduation ceremony on 16 April.
“South Africa is our country, and we all have to do our part to achieve the country we want,” she said in a recent interview. “If you are in the municipality, are you doing your part to run things well? If you are the
owner of a business, are you doing your part to offer the best service?”
Formative years
Gobodo was nominated by GIBS Dean Professor Morris Mthombeni, who explained that as a schoolgirl in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, she had helped her father with the bookkeeping for his panel-beating shop. “She had a natural flair for figures and was inspired by WL Nkuhlu & Co, the firm that audited her father’s accounts.
It was owned by Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, the first black male chartered accountant in South Africa. Gobodo decided that she, too, wanted to become a chartered accountant. It is particularly fitting that she is awarded
the Chancellor’s Medal, as Prof Nkuhlu was the longstanding Chancellor of UP from 2007 to 2022.”
In the late 1970s, Gobodo enrolled at the University of Transkei (now Walter Sisulu University) for a BCom
degree and then pursued her CA ambitions.
There were very few black CAs in the 1980s and early 1990s. Still, she drew on her courage and leadership skills to establish her own accountancy firm, Gobodo Incorporated, in 1992, after turning down a partnership offer from KPMG. She says this remains one of the proudest moments in her life.
Gobodo was subsequently instrumental in the 2011 merger of Gobodo Incorporated with SizweNtsaluba VSP
to form SizweNtsalubaGobodo (SNG, now SNG Grant Thornton), South Africa’s largest black-owned
accountancy firm, and one of the ‘Big Five’ largest accounting firms in southern Africa.
The SNG merger process was difficult, with challenges including blending different corporate cultures.
“At this level, qualifications remain important, but the role demands more than these, and as leaders, we are not always prepared for the huge task of leading people,” Gobodo explains. “We think we are, but people see the world differently and bring different gifts and talents. It takes maturity to appreciate this and find ways of working together to avoid company and boardroom conflicts.”
She says this type of leadership starts with “understanding and leading yourself first so that you can
understand and lead others”. She has put considerable effort into this and says the more she understands herself, the more she appreciates how other people work.
Gobodo served as executive chair of SNG until 2015. In 2016 she co-founded Nkululeko Leadership Consulting (NLC), which she was CEO of until 2021. She is now CEO of Awakened Global, which she established in 2021 to address ongoing prejudice and racism experienced by women in the workplace. She also continues to sit on several boards. Her autobiography, Awakened… to my true self, was published in 2022.
She says she had to forgive herself for parts of her life she cannot change. “Would the market have waited for me if I had slowed down and been around more for my children? But the answer is ‘no’. I had to pursue my ambitions. My children are all adults now and are fine, and if I had not done what I did, I
would not have been able to offer them the education and life I have been able to do.”
She says women often second-guess whether they should pursue their ambitions, as this
would impact their family time. “I say, you will always make time for your family, but don’t miss the moment – women need to seize this time to get where we should be in all forms of leadership.”
Still, she cautions young people not to get ahead of themselves. “People in their second year of articles
come up to me and ask me how they can get onto boards, and they don’t mean in a few years’ time; they
mean now. They are simply not ready for this, and they need to put in a lot of hard work before they are.”
Gobodo says she has reached a stage where she is satisfied with her goals. “I am finally more
relaxed, and I can appreciate life and witness my children on their journeys. I can also choose which boards I want to sit on. I’m not rushing anywhere.”
Still, Awakened Global has a large mission, with Gobodo at the helm: “There’s a whole new world waiting for us once we awaken to who we truly are, and once we believe we can achieve anything we set our sights on,” she says. “And I’m talking about everyone in every field. We can establish our own firms and grow them. We can do whatever we want to do, but whatever we do, we must do our part.

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