Cape Town, Wednesday 26 October 2016 – Despite having few role models growing up, Sinetemba Fumbata is a young professional with the world at his feet. It has taken great determination for this aspiring chartered accountant (CA[SA]) to get where he is today. Having overcome an abusive family situation, the loss of both his parents by the time he had reached high school and the fact that his family could barely afford his R200 annual school fees, today Fumbata is one of Engen’s top CA(SA) trainees.
Zwide, a township in Port Elizabeth, is largely a sea of RDP houses and high unemployment. This is where young professional, Sinetemba Fumbata, grew up.
One of seven siblings growing up in Zwide, Fumbata never had much. “Our family could not afford the school fees although they were only about R200 a year,” he says. His clothes were hand-me-downs and as the youngest of four brothers (one of which was in and out of prison) and three sisters, he never had any positive role models, apart from his older sister, Princess, who played an important part in his upbringing.
When speaking of his early childhood, Fumbata says his favourite part of the day was when his mom would return home from work. But this ended when he was five and his mom had a stroke. Everything changed in an instant. His father became an alcoholic and was abusive. It was then that Princess stepped in to fill the gap. “She played an important part in my upbringing,” he says. “She went out to work as a domestic helper.”
Fumbata went to live with his then 25-year-old sister, Princess and her husband for two years. This, however, was short-lived and the siblings returned to their family home when his sister separated from her husband. “Princess came home as the mother figure and the breadwinner,” says Fumbata. She raised Fumbata (from the age of 7) and his 16-year-old sister, who was the only other remaining sibling at home.
“Happy memories helped me cope,” he says with the stoicism of a survivor. “We didn’t focus on what was going on at home. The first thing I did when I got home from school was take off my uniform and go play street soccer and street rugby. The great thing was that we played together as boys and girls. This played a very important role in how I relate to women today.”
It was at this young age that Fumbata also began to strive for greatness. Having been told from Grade 1 that he was the best, Fumbata says he has “always tried to live up to that expectation.” “Being average never sat well with me.” An entrepreneur in the making, he sold sweets to earn pocket money throughout high school. He also helped ‘the aunties’ who sold fruit and snacks at lunchbreaks, earning himself a free lunch and pocket money as a trade-off.
This desire to be the best only grew as Fumbata got older. Despite losing both his parents by the time he reached high school, Fumbata excelled at school. So it was no surprise that his Grade 9 mathematics and accounting teachers encouraged him to pursue a career as a chartered accountant (CA[SA]). This was “before I had heard of the profession,” he reflects. Intrigued, Fumbata sought to achieve this goal and so “I practised mathematics and accounting after school, using old examination and test papers.”
In Grade 12, Fumbata attended extra mathematics classes provided by Deloitte and tutored his school classmates to get a deeper understanding of the subject. It was during the same year that he was approached by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (SAICA) Thuthuka Bursary Fund (TBF) - a bursary that supports talented African and Coloured South African learners who excel in mathematics in their pursuit to study towards becoming CAs(SA).
“To my surprise the Thuthuka Bursary was fully funded,” says Fumbata. “It covered books, tuition, a food allowance and pocket money which I would normally send back home.” He completed his BCom Accounting degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. “What I liked about Thuthuka, over and above the financial support, was the academic support, and the seminars on soft skills and professional skills which I apply today,” Fumbata continues.
Today, Fumbata is doing his CA(SA) traineeship at Engen in Cape Town, where he is one of the two top trainees at the firm. “It is satisfying as I can drive my own career and negotiate which department I will rotate to, and do tasks that require new competencies and responsibilities.” Fumbata is grateful for the support provided by his girlfriend, who is his ‘voice of reason,’ his older sisters and the mentorship provided by his pastor.
Although he has gone through so much to get to where he is today, Fumbata believes that there are people going through much worse situations than he experienced. “I believe that programmes like Thuthuka are there to bridge that gap in society. Sometimes it’s not about the height which a person has risen to, but rather the depths from which we rise.”
The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), South Africa’s pre-eminent accountancy body, is widely recognised as one of the world’s leading accounting institutes. The Institute provides a wide range of support services to more than 40 000 members who are chartered accountants [CAs(SA)] and hold positions as CEOs, MDs, board directors, business owners, chief financial officers, auditors and leaders in their spheres of business operation. Most of these members operate in commerce and industry, and play a significant role in the nation’s highly dynamic business sector and economic development.
About the Thuthuka Bursary Fund and Education Upliftment Project:
One of SAICA’s prime goals is to contribute towards strengthening the country’s economy by playing a significant and leading role in transformation and skills development. The Thuthuka Education Upliftment Project, a pioneering initiative to promote transformation in the profession, was launched in the Eastern Cape in 2002 and is fast growing into a national project.
Thuthuka’s objective is to transform the demographics of the profession to reflect those of the country in terms of race and gender, and provide educational support to African learners and students for the benefit of the profession, while simultaneously helping to uplift communities. Therefore, SAICA prides itself in leading the chartered accountancy profession as a socially responsible driver of business and skills development by supporting and encouraging enterprise development initiatives.
SAICA Media Contact
Ms Karin Iten
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Ms Nwabisa Tsengiwe
Senior Executive: Marketing, Communication and PR
SAICA Nation Building Division
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