Tumeka wants to train those blocked out of the industry

Growing up in Cape Town and being raised by parents who are medical doctors, Tumeka Matshoba-Ramuedzisi had no idea that she would be a chartered accountant and auditor. That was not even her first choice when she applied for her studies at the University of Cape Town, nor did she have accounting as a subject in high school.
Today, the 39-year-old mother of three is co-founder and chairman of Ramuedzisi Chartered Accountants and Registered Auditors, which employs about 16 people. The company, which was founded by Tumeka together with her husband Denga Ramuedzisi and his brother Lutendo Ranuedzisi, provides internal auditing, financial management consulting and general business consulting. The firm has also assisted several clients around business strategy and staffing.

Tumeka said: “We have a broad business view. When we started this organisation, we were looking at helping companies in the small to medium space with expertise that they could not afford to hire on a full-time basis.”

Tumeka, who started her career at KPMG and later lectured at University of Johannesburg, laughs when she shares that the company was started in 2006 in a “dining room”. It was officially registration in 2007.

“At some point, we had to decide if this was going to be a nice hobby on the side or if we wanted to actually turn it into something.”

“It all started when Denga completed his articles and said he wanted to start a firm on the side and I offered to help him because I had the skills and the time. I eventually qualified at the end of 2007 and we carried on at the time at his house. At some point we had to decide if this was going to be a nice hobby on the side or if we wanted to actually turn it into something. I love autonomy. And I struggled throughout my articles at one of South Africa’s big firms where I was constantly fighting against the system.

So, I decided to extract myself from that environment. At the end of my articles, I had an offer at that firm to stay and become a manager, but I realised that if I stayed, I would have to accept the status quo. And I asked myself if I wanted to be using my energy up in that way because it was draining. So, I declined the offer and I went into lecturing for six years. I loved it. It was great to transfer knowledge and tell the second-year students the kind of stuff I wished I could have been told when I was studying.”

Tumeka shares how she got into the field

“I did not go to university to do this. I had no idea this career existed when I went to varsity. My high school had no business subjects. I did science, mathematics and biology. I could have probably gone into science. At one stage I thought I wanted to be a doctor like any other child. Then that changed. In varsity I came across concepts like business and marketing. I registered for a Business Science Marketing degree, and in second year I started doing Finance. Later I heard many students talking about CA and bursaries. I started investigating about the bursaries and most of them were in the finance field, so I stuck with it. I applied for a bursary and got one at KPMG. So, I was like: ‘Cool. I guess I now have to do this charted accounting.’

Tumeka says the challenge with a small business, especially the one that you start, is having to separate between being the business and running it.

“Initially all we had to do was get the work and do the work. But then once we started employing people, sustainability became important because you wanted people to keep their jobs. With maintaining sustainability comes concerns such as ‘where is my next client coming from; how do I get that client.’ Now you have to become a lot more strategic. That’s something I learned on the job. And I realised that I am quite a strategic thinker.”

What keeps the avid runner and Leadership PhD candidate is that she loves what she is doing. “I love autonomy. It’s important for me that I’m doing what I want, and this is going where I want it to go. For me there is also a broader societal issue that I am looking at around my profession.”

Which is?

“Gatekeeping and exclusionary practices limiting the number of black people who are trying to enter the profession. This is why I am very much involved in my professional body. Those things matter to me. If I wasn’t here, I would be probably working at the university because you are also impacting the pipeline there, or I would be working at the professional body.”

Tumeka is part of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants and Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors.

How has her background prepared her for this role?

“Being the first born of three, I just naturally decided I run stuff. I felt like I was always free to express myself. I never held back. Whatever next role I am taking on is to lead and impact this industry. There is one constant aspiration I have always had. I would love to be Minister of Higher Education one day. I just don’t like the political aspect of it, but I would love to run that portfolio one day. I see so much work that needs to be done there. Look at the infrastructure in the previously black universities that are going into complete ruin. I don’t like that everybody thinks they must go to Wits University or UCT because those are the ‘good’ varsities. I think any varsity can be good. What makes those varsities good is the infrastructure that they have. So, you hire those people. I know I am simplifying it, but I am interested to know what’s blocking other varsities from become like them.”

Tumeka says she wants to see Ramuedzisi become a leading South African firm that provides good training and opportunities to those who are blocked out of the industry, to those who can’t get their articles because they come from the Universities of Venda or Limpopo or Walter Sisulu.

“Primarily, when I look at my broad experience, it helps me understand the profession a lot better. The ethical impact of it; the public interest stuff; my involvement in the professional body … I think I genuinely care about this profession and where it is going beyond the money that one can make from it. The ethos that our company operates from are knowledge building and sharing. There is always a lesson. I’d like us to be seen as excellent service providers with integrity.

When one thinks of an accountant, they think of this old white man with grey hair. And I’m like ‘I want to be the face of the profession now’. This is what an accountant or auditor looks like. They are more than just that. They have a life. They study PhDs. And they go running. I want this firm to show people that you don’t have to be a particular way in order to be successful in this profession. We are in South Africa. Can things look like us? Can they fit into what South Africa is? South Africa in not one thing. So, we must know that everything is for everyone.

Tumeka concludes by giving advice to small businesses: “The provisional tax is due soon. The prior year’s income tax will be due. So, make sure your house is in order. Small businesses need to be keeping up with their admin. You still have a month to put your things together and avoid the tax penalty.”

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