10 Chartered Accountants from South Africa share their struggles and successes. Here is how these CAs(SA) pulled through.

Chartered Accountants South Africa SAICA

The South African Chartered Accountancy [CA (SA)] designation is highly recognized, in many countries. 

Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant (SA) usually takes 7 years (3-year bachelor's degree; 1-year honour's and 3-year internship) provided you are able to complete the undergraduate qualification; postgraduate qualification and board exams in the minimum time.

The pathway to adding CA(SA) after your name may not be a cakewalk, it comes with personal struggle and a bit of mental exhaustion.

Because of courage and determination, these 10 Chartered Accountants of South Africa pulled through even when the situation looked bleak.

From a Dropout Engineer to a CA(SA)

The road to chartered accountancy was full of turbulences, for Khaleel Essa. He almost quit his studies and went into informal employment.

Khaleel says,

Initially I wanted to pursue Mechanical Engineering, but was removed from the University of Johannesburg due to my negligence about my studies.

I realized B.Com was my last hope, hence my journey to qualifying as a CA(SA) started.

When I completed my undergrad from UNISA in 2009, I failed one auditing module. Luckily, I wrote a supplementary exam and eventually, achieved 51%. I could now start with my Honours (postgraduate).

In my Honours, of the 16 tests written during the year, I managed to pass all but one.

Serving traineeship whilst attempting to sustain a household had its own bouquet of challenges.

In 2014 I successfully completed the second board exam and became eligible to register as a CA (SA) – one of the proudest moments in my life.

Qualifying as a CA does not automatically make you the CEO but it provides you with opportunities within which you reach your goals through hard work.”

Read my full story here

It took me 16 years to become a CA(SA) 

The road to success was not straight for Melvin Mdabula. Going from success to failure to then again success, the pathway to qualifying CA (SA) was full of thorns for Melvin.

Melvin shares,

“When I consulted my older brother on which were the highest paying jobs in the country, he said to me that Chartered Accountancy was one of the most well-paying professions.

Here started my dream to become a Chartered Accountant.

I have a very good memory and always excelled in tests. This was the reason why I developed a habit that was detrimental to my mental and physical well-being.

I used to study 90% of the material the night before the exam and sleep for only 3-4 hours during the exam days.

After passing the CA (SA) foundation programme, in 2004 I enrolled in B.Com Accounting at the University of Johannesburg.

When I finished my articles in 2014, I did a self-introspection and decided to take a 2-year break from my studies. I had burned out.

I started my schooling at age 5. (I was 29 years old at that time)

After combating my burnout, I gave it one more shot but was very strategic this time.

I started my CTA again in 2017 through Monash University, part-time.

It took me 9 years to just pass the Honours (CTA).

When I finally qualified as a CA, it was so surreal."

You can read my journey here

From Failing CA(SA) exams multiple times to qualifying as one

Sedzani's childhood days weren't all rainbows and sunshine. She had to overcome many failures.

She recalls,

"After completing my Bachelor’s of business science in June 2011, I enrolled for a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Accounting Sciences (also known as CTA Level 1).

However, I couldn't clear CTA level 1.  I decided to do certification on fraud examination (CFE) from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners instead.

Having completed CFE, I went back to UNISA in 2014 to do my Honours (postgraduate) in Advanced Accounting Sciences (CTA level 1) which I successfully completed that year, finally.

I continued with my studies and started my article training at Grant Thornton.

Eventually, I passed CTA Level 2 after the backbreaking grind and completed my Postgraduate. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

Now I had two board exams to complete in order to qualify as a CA(SA).

I did so after coming across a few roadblocks and received the results in Feb 2019.

I was now a qualified CA(SA)."

Read my entire journey here. 

Mother of three qualified as a CA(SA) at 35... while working a full-time job 

It took Asanda Ngcikiza 10 long years with several detours in between to qualify as a CA(SA)! 

She self-funded her studies and worked on her dreams while juggling a full-time job and three kids as a single mother. 

Asanda says,

“When I started university, things took a turn for the worse. I fell pregnant in my final year. I could not write supplementary exams as I gave birth to my son that same month.

Fortunately, I got a job at a financial services company as a Credit Analyst and started working the same month after my son was born.

Did I give up on the CA dream? Not at all. I continued my studies part-time.

This obviously meant my CA dream would take me longer to achieve. To add fuel to the fire, I soon had a second child in December 2007.

I struggled with managing my time but I decided to do my CTA (2010). At that moment, I completely gave up on my CA dream and converted my CTA to Honours in Financial Accounting. 

In 2015, I gave birth to my third child! During my maternity leave, it dawned on me that I had given up on my CA dream completely. This haunted me.

I decided to give it another shot.

Studying with three kids and a full-time job was not easy. I would wake up before everyone to study from 3 am to 6 am daily and continue my studies after coming back from the office.

Eventually, I qualified as a CA(SA) after giving up several times!

If I can do it, you can do it too.”

More on my journey here. 

This CA(SA) went from extreme poverty to Partner at PwC

Philani Maphanga grew up in a small village where his responsibilities included being a herd boy. But the dream of becoming a CA already started when he was in grade 10.

He shares how he achieved his goal of being a CA by having a clear vision,

"My father lost his job in 1987. Without any money to study further, I decided to work part-time.

In 1997, I enrolled at the University of Durban – Westville.

My journey through my university days was not easy. There were days when I had to reach my classes on foot. 

I passed the first Board exam (ITC), however, due to various reasons, I failed the second Board examination twice.

Despite all the challenges, my dream of becoming a CA as a child from rural KZN kept me going...and I finally qualified as a CA(SA) in 2004."

Here is the entire journey

From a village school to a Partner at the Big 4

Growing up in a disadvantaged background, Zimkita Mabindla was always curious about how money works, which eventually led to her CA journey.

Zimkita says,

"At the young age of 12, I made up my mind to become a Chartered Accountant.

Fast forward, I was accepted to study accounting at the 'University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg'. 

Unfortunately, due to my dad’s financial constraints, I could not afford to get admission there. 

But did I give up on my dream?

Obviously not.

However, when I completed my diploma in 1997, times were very tough. So, I put my CA plans on the back burner and focused on helping my mother and older sister financially.

Later in 1998, I got a job opportunity to work at EY as a Junior Accountant.

At EY my dream to become a CA was renewed, and I applied to transition from being an employee at EY to an article assistant.

After almost 2 years at EY, I was accepted at the Johannesburg office. 

Finally, after 12 long years, against all odds, I qualified as a CA(SA) in 2006… A dream come true.”

You can read her entire journey here

Teenage motherhood didn't deter this South African from her CA journey

Through continuous hard work and resilience, Makhosazane Mampa went from a teenage mum to Chartered Accountant.

She talks about her journey,

"While I identified my vehemence to make it to University, in Grade 11 I fell pregnant!

In spite of all the hurdles, I returned to school when my son was just 6 days old!

Soon I applied for my Bachelor of Accounting degree during Grade 12 at the then-University of Durban Westville!  

It was more than a challenge for me to manage both my studies and a child.

Fortunately, for the first 3 years of my undergraduate degree, I received a scholarship from my Father’s Employer.

In 2010 I finally became a Chartered Accountant. This achievement made me believe that 'Dreams do come true'.

Here is her journey

Loss of a parent and clearing SAICA’s ITC exam in the face of Covid

A CA (SA) is an exciting yet taxing journey, but what happens if the deadly Covid adds to the distress?

Dida Copiso went through that nightmare.

"With the intention to pursue CA(SA) I relocated to Pretoria in 2020.

To complete a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA) I enrolled at the University of South Africa (UNISA) alongside my first year of articles.

It was not at all smooth sailing since, around that period, COVID-19 took over the world. Fortunately, God gave me the strength to clear CTA on my first attempt.

In January 2021, the unthinkable happened as my mother succumbed to the coronavirus. I picked myself up, thanks to the constant support from my loved ones.

I further went on to also complete ITC on the first attempt in April of 2021.

I am on my way to becoming a CA(SA).

What has helped me in the face of difficulties? I would say it's Discipline."

You can read my entire journey here

Against all odds, Desmond Msomi built a thriving 250+ member practice

Growing up in a semi-rural area in South Africa the ravages of apartheid ensured that people in that area did not progress.

Desmond Msomi CA (SA) shares how he rose from the ground in the face of adversity.

"Our Accountancy teacher used to talk about this "B.Com" which could enable us to be accountants for big companies.

It was here that I made up my mind to become a CA!

Fast forward I applied to the University of Cape Town (UCT), but there was no money for me to go to any university!  

The next option for me was - The University of Fort Hare.

I got an acceptance letter and looking at my grade 12 results, I was awarded a Johnson & Johnson bursary of R1000 per year for three years.

When I started articles in 1988 with Pim Goldby there were a few clients I was never assigned to because of my skin colour!

I did not fight.

Instead, I did my job.

In January 1991, I completed my articles.

I soon appeared for the remaining CA exams and passed in 1992 on the second attempt. 

Later on, in 1995, I resigned from Lever Brothers and joined Mr. Wilfred Ngubane to start an Auditing firm from scratch.

Looks like the risk paid off.”

Here is how I braved the challenges coming my way.

Scope of CA from SAICA?

Senele Mbatha, a qualified Chartered Accountant from South Africa says,  

"CA is a diverse stream and has a lot of opportunities in South Africa and worldwide.

Chartered Accountants are absolutely not restricted to just Finance, Audit or Tax. You can almost find a CA in every corner of business.

You’re almost guaranteed to find your niche in the industry. 

CA(SA) can work outside of South Africa as well, such as the UK, Middle East, US, and Australia."


Sign up for The Finance Story Fortnightly newsletter

Inspiration, Learnings, Knowledge in your in-box

Get stories delivered to your inbox

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter
By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use & Privacy Policy.
Learning Learning Partner Partner
Which Dell Technologies offerings do you wish to know more about?

Book 1:1 call with industry expert