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From herdboy to accountant: the story of Saiba member Mpendula Cira BAP (SA)

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It is often that our lives are shaped to fit the environment we live in, our lifestyles and choices then conform to the norms of our society. It takes courage, determination, discipline and hard work to defy these norms. Mpendula Cira BAP(SA) made sure that his future was not influenced by his surroundings, he then transitioned from a herdboy to an accountant.

Cira was born and raised in rural Kwazulu-Natal in a village called Kwa Bhudubhudu. At the time his lived in Johannesburg, so his grandparents took him in and raised him. Just like any other village boy, life came with its challenges.

His typical day involved going to school, then herding cattle and fetching water from the stream using donkeys. The advantages and privileges of city life were a distant dream. His farming chores gave him little time to play – though this was normal living for the young Cira.

“Having to herd cattle and be responsible for fetching water made me learn being responsible at a young age, I knew that there was no time for playing because my chores were waiting for me the minute school knocked off,” he says.

He was a disciplined child and avoided trouble. “There just wasn’t time for me to be getting naughty,” he jokes. Cira completed part of his high school in the rural village where he lived. When his grandmother passed away, he moved to Johannesburg to live with his parents, completing his matric in Soweto. Due to lack funds, he was forced to stay home for a year before securing funding to study towards a national diploma in accounting at Mangosuthu University of Technology.

What made you choose accounting?

“Growing up, I wanted to be a physicist or a doctor and when I went to Johannesburg I enrolled at a high school in Johannesburg CBD. Although the school was bogus and we came back to a shop after the school holidays, one teacher influenced my decision. Because I was from a rural area and my English was bad, he said I would not qualify to be any of the two. I then shifted my focus to accounting and decided to stick with it, it was a good decision.”

After completing his diploma, Cira started working and in 2016 he started his own practice. It wasn’t long before his services were in high demand. “A lot of people know how to start a business but handling the finances is not something they can do. Sometimes it is lack of information and ignorance. That is why I take my clients through understanding how to handle their money, the importance of doing so and how it will benefit their business.”

What challenges were you faced with when you started your business?

Being in business is tough and when you start people will ask you to work for them and not pay you, you then run out of money and can’t afford to keep up. I was a victim and I had to work long hours to fix that, I couldn’t even afford someone to help me. But I learned from my experience and now am in the process of hiring 1 permanent employee, that is progress.

Cira is passionate about helping people, working with NPOs (non-profit organisations) and being a problem-solver. He intends to make his practice the ‘practice of choice for small and emerging businesses’ around him. “I don’t mind doing the big job for smaller fees because my intention is to help people grow and get to where they want to be”.

Outside the office Cira is talkative, loves debating about political and social issues, and enjoys playing cricket and reading. He intends to venture into farming in order to contribute in creating employment for people, mostly poorly educated and less advantaged people. “It is easy to find a job if you have education but what about the people who did not go to school? They also have needs and food to put on the table for their families, I want to make sure that happens.”

Reflecting on his career, Cira said he is thankful to Saiba for the fruitful relationship he has developed. He appreciates that Saiba is responsive, informative and the epitome of what a good accounting practice should be. “Obtaining my BAP designation means that I can now become an independent reviewer and take on NPOs through the Saiba academy, so that’s my next step.”