Tribute to Kimi Makwetu, a visionary and eternal patriot
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By Tsakani Maluleke
The history of black South Africans’ entry into the accounting and auditing profession will definitely have a big chapter about auditor-general Kimi Makwetu and his generation.
This will be preceded by a chapter on amavulandlela – the trailblazers like Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu and Nonkululeko Gobodo, who showed us that we, as black people, can follow accountancy as a profession.
Makwetu’s generation – people like his predecessors Terence Nombembe and Shauket Fakie – played a huge role in ensuring that the number of black chartered accountants grew.
They also cultivated a sense of national duty by showing us that it was imperative for some of us to get into public sector auditing and actively support our democracy.
That is how my generation of young, patriotic auditors was born. We owe our birth to pioneers like Makwetu.
Since his passing, many endearing words have been used to describe Makwetu – words such as incredible, ethical, dedicated servant, excellence and patriot. All of these words are true and relevant to this giant.
But to us, Makwetu was our leader – the one who showed by example how we can diligently serve our country. He was an incredible teacher, mentor and friend.
He may have been the head of South Africa’s supreme audit institution, but he was also a man who showed us as an institution how we can be a beacon of hope for our beloved country. As a visionary leader and a patriot, Makwetu was always restless about the state of public sector governance systems, as he asserted that the lapses were having a significant impact on how basic services were delivered to the ordinary citizens.
But as an eternal patriot, he always impressed on us that it will never be enough for us to just issue negative audit findings every year.
He firmly believed that, for the sake of the ordinary South Africans, we need to empower those charged with governance and oversight to address the administrative failure. To this effect, he pioneered many game-changing audit initiatives in a bid to ensure that our country’s governance systems are improved.
Many are aware of the enhanced powers Parliament gave to the Office of the A-G. Kimi personally drove this process through to its approval, as he felt that such amendments would help improve governance. Before his death, A-G Makwetu was about to release his second real-time audit report on government’s Covid-19 expenditure. Unlike normal audits, which take place after the fact, these special audits were Makwetu’s way of ensuring that relief funds meant for the most vulnerable were dispensed appropriately.
To ensure that the public sector improved its systems, Makwetu also introduced state of records reviews and preventative controls guidelines – mechanisms meant to assist those charged with governance and oversight to pro-actively pick up and remedy administrative lapses before they become endemic.
One of Makwetu’s passions was transformation of the auditing industry, especially creating opportunities for women and young people from previously disadvantaged groups to enter and excel within the profession. During his term, our office has reached a stage where 50% of our executive committee are women.
These are just a handful of the visionary initiatives that A-G Makwetu led. For those who are interested in reading more about his legacy, our latest (2019-20) annual report is a great read that aptly summarises his journey and role in helping to improve our democracy.
As the national audit office, we believe that the best way for us to honour the legacy of this great South African is to follow in his footsteps by maintaining an institution that he ensured would become the pride of all citizens – one that is independent, fair and transparent in delivering on its constitutional mandate.
Through his contributions, we are a better accountancy community globally, a better country and a better organisation.
In his honour, we as the audit office pledge to continue to demonstrate that which he held true and lived daily – the integrity and the dedication to serving our country diligently and with humility, accountability and resilience. Luckily, Makwetu left us with all the tools we need to carry on where he left off. And through his mentorship, we are ready to take up the baton and continue to serve South Africa and its citizens in line with our constitutional mandate, as we always have under his stewardship.
Zikhali, for your leadership, your dedication to promoting accountability in the public sector, your commitment to preserving the integrity of the audit profession and your unshakable patriotism – we thank you.
Equally, we thank your wife, Sisi Miranda, and your children for sharing you with us, and for allowing and supporting you to serve South Africa with distinction, even during strenuous times.
On behalf of the Makwetu family and the auditor-general of South Africa team, I would like to express our heartfelt and sincere appreciation for the messages of condolence that we have received from all over the world since we learnt of the passing of our beloved A-G. Your messages are going a long way to comfort us as we try to come to terms with the sad reality of his untimely passing.
* Maluleke is the deputy auditor-general and the Auditor-General-elect.