Farewell to a truly fearless, dynamic and driven ethical leader
WHATSOEVER thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. – Ecclesiasticus 9:10
It is Walter Payton who reminds us that, “remember, tomorrow is promised to no one.” It was only on Tuesday, 10 November that I was talking to Tata Thembekile “Kimi” Makwetu, congratulating him on yet another global recognition and about the SENS announcement that The Bidvest Group Limited was preparing to release, and seeking his sign off. He had accepted a non-executive director role, which was to be effective on 1 December, and would serve on three board committees. This was all in preparation for the finalisation thereof at my meeting with Sis’ Nompumelelo Madisa, CEO, later the same day.
So, it was with great shock that we learned of his sudden passing on the afternoon of 11 November, at such a young age of 54 years. A truly fearless, dynamic and driven ethical leader, Tata Thembekile had given his life to the now maligned auditing profession, having worked for most of his life in the private sector before accepting the call to share his vast knowledge, demonstrable track record and professionalism in the public sector where he was the deputy Auditor-General. His seven-year term as Auditor-General would have expired on 30 November.
We bow our collective heads in admiration as to how he and his team succeeded in raising the bar and providing a step-change in the Auditor-General’s office. This team succeeded in changing the law to give this office more teeth in demanding ethical leadership, absolute transparency and final accountability from public servants.
He was a formidable ally in helping South Africa root out and defeat State Capture. He was among the few who worked tirelessly to help us better understand and unravel the very complex spider web of how State Capture actually works by, among others, creating a shadow state, repurposing state-owned entities and companies, and replacing the “bad guys” with highly skilled and experienced public servants.
The ultimate prize was the capture of the National Treasury itself and for the “bad guys” to get their dirty hands on the biggest asset manager on the continent, the PIC. He played a pivotal role in helping us conceptualise, distil and synthesise a submission – prepared at a time when civil society organisations were deeply concerned about the impact of State Capture on the lives of millions of people. Evidence of the impact of State Capture on people is taken from the People’s Hearing on State Capture, an initiative by the Working Group in October 2019, to give voice to the victims of these economic crimes.
The human cost of State Capture and its contribution to deepening poverty and inequality provides the necessary urgency for the reforms set out in that submission, the recommendations of which identify and address areas, across the broad scope of the Working Group’s submissions, as needing critical attention, namely: strengthening and building the capacity of criminal justice agencies; holding enablers of State Capture to account; improving the financial accountability of political parties through amended regulations; addressing the endemic nature of corruption in state-owned enterprises and companies; and addressing the impact of corruption and how it undermines the fundamental rights of vulnerable groups.
He set the Office of the Auditor-General’s sights on misusers of taxpayers’ money. Under Makwetu’s leadership, the Auditor-General of South Africa has reached a milestone of more than 1.000 chartered accountants in its ranks. As a key institution of accountability in the public service, the recent passing of the Public Audit Act, as amended, has the potential to significantly alter the safeguarding of the nation’s resources by fostering greater accountability among the custodians of public resources.
He was bestowed and honoured by the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa (Abasa) during their annual convention with a lifetime achievement award by his peers for “sterling work” and his contribution to the industry. He passed his CA(SA) board exams in March 2000. His further education saw him completing, among others, an Accelerated Executive Development Programme at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Legal Aspects of Corporate Finance at the University of London.
To Sis’ Miranda, their three children, extended family, colleagues and friends, kindly accept our heartfelt and sincere sympathies and condolences on your and the country’s profound loss. We can only imagine that there is no pain deeper than losing a loving father, considerate husband and a truly wholesome human being. He shall grow old no more and will walk beside you every day, unseen, unheard but always near – still loved, still missed and very dear. Our support and prayers are with you. May Jehovah grant family and friends the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss – that you will also find strength in Jehovah’s abiding grace, healing and His never-ending supply of love. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
uThixo anisikelele ngalolonke ixhesha.Sibulela ngokuzithobileyo nokungazenzisiyo Tata!
- Bonang Mohale is the Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor of Practice in the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) College of Business and Economics, Chairman of The Bidvest Group Limited and past President of the BMF. He is the author of the best-selling book, “Lift As You Rise”.