By Bongiwe Zwane – Maseko
“Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”
These pearls of wisdom are attributed to Charlotte Whitton, a Canadian feminist. She was the first woman mayor of a major city in Canada, serving from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964. Whitton was a Canadian social policy pioneer, leader, and commentator, as well as a journalist and writer.
In 2023 her words still ring true but fortunately for women like Inyatsi Group Chief Financial Officer Jabulile Shabangu, hard work has always been in her DNA.
From putting in long laborious hours studying towards being a chartered account to steering a giant company’s financial direction, Shabangu has navigated murky waters and emerged victorious.
“I am not afraid of challenging work. I am only afraid of failure, so this is what drives me to put in long, hard hours to ensure perfection in everything that I do,” she says.
Being at the helm of a multi-billion company’s financial unit makes her a force to be reckoned with. She has proven over and over that the role she has been placed in is well deserved. Besides an impressive string of academic qualifications to her name, she is also the epitome of accountability and transparency.
Her journey serves as an inspiration to many people who know her story. She lost her father at a very early age and her widowed mother could not afford to take care of her and her seven siblings.
The little girl from rural Siyendle in the Shiselweni region did not let this define who she was to become. Together with five of her siblings, she was raised at the SOS Children’s Village in Mbabane and attended Herman Gmeiner Primary School.
Due to her academic excellence, she was granted a bursary to do her high school education at Herman Gmeiner High School in Ghana. Shabangu also did her IB at the same school before proceeding to the University of Cape Town, where she attained her Bachelor of Commerce Degree and an Honours in Accounting.
She returned home and served her articles with PricewaterhouseCoopers while continuing to study toward being a chartered accountant.
“Juggling work and school was very difficult but I kept focused on the goal and was able to qualify within record time,” she says.
By this time Shabangu was already married and had a baby on the way. She says due to her hectic schedule, she had to leave her baby when she was only two weeks old to go and write her examinations in South Africa.
“Fortunately, I have a very supportive partner so this eased the load. My husband had to step up and be a double parent since I could not miss my exams. To be honest, I have always led a very busy life as I have a very demanding job and cannot always spend enough time with my loved ones but whenever I have a chance, I give them my full attention. I work extra hard so I can provide my children with everything they need,” she says.
Shabangu worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as Audit Clerk/Supervisor for three years before joining Inyatsi Construction Limited as Reporting Specialist in 2008.
She has worked in different capacities within the Inyatsi Group of Companies and with each task, she climbed the corporate ladder to where she is today. Her daily duties include strategy planning, tax planning, and finance operations.
Her agile nature has also seen her being tasked with heading the finance operations at Maloma Colliery. She says putting in long hours at work and constantly upgrading herself professionally, is very demanding but a worthwhile investment as she knows it will secure a comfortable future for her and her loved ones.
“I barely have time for anything other than work but I am not complaining. My family knows they are loved and when I do catch a break, I make sure that I give them my undivided attention,” she says.
Shabangu loves watching comedy shows on television but can barely spare the time to do so. Over the years, she has attained a master’s degree in Taxation, among her many qualifications.
She says trust and integrity are at the core of what she does every day as accounting requires one to have a level of both.
“In my area of work, one has to be above reproach. Coming from an audit background, I truly value honesty and attention to detail so the Inyatsi Group of Companies values are second nature to me. All of them,” she says.
So what does the future hold for this dynamic woman? She says in the short term, she sees herself leading one of the Group’s subsidiaries as CEO and then starting her own successful company in the next ten years.
Shabangu already successfully runs two businesses – a hydraulics company and a catering enterprise which she says are being capably managed by people she trusts. She says great leadership is grooming the right people you can trust with your legacy.
“I hope to retire early and be able to do the things that I am unable to do now due to limited time. Once my children complete their education I will be able to exhale,” she says.
Among her many blessings, she counts the Inyatsi Group of Companies as being the perfect employer of choice. She adds that the Group has availed her of growth opportunities and a chance to prove herself as a capable, forward-thinking leader.