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Unisa honours accounting trailblazer, Sizwe Nxasana

Unisa conferred the Doctor of Philosophy in Accounting Sciences (Honoris Causa) degree to Sizwe Nxasana, a trailblazing South African businessman, educator and one of the first black individuals to qualify as a chartered accountant in a profession historically dominated by white practitioners. The degree was conferred at the university's Spring graduation ceremony on 2 October 2023 at Unisa's Muckleneuk Campus. 

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Dr Judy Dlamini, Chancellor Dr Thabo Mbeki, Sizwe Nxasana and Prof Puleng LenkaBula

Acting Executive Dean of the College of Accounting Sciences, Dr Moses Hlongoane, stated that Nxasana has played a pivotal role in the field of accountancy and the accounting profession at large, and for his dedicated service to education and the corporate sector, the Unisa Council agreed to confer him the honorary degree. Hlongoane said Nxasana, who obtained his honours degree at Unisa in accounting sciences, has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Telkom and FirstRand Bank Limited, demonstrating the calibre of Unisa alumni.

Nxasana's significant contributions to the discipline of accountancy include the establishment, in 1989, of the pioneering black-owned chartered accounting firm Sizwe & Co Chartered Accountants. He was also a founding partner of the fifth largest audit firm in South Africa, which has played a pivotal role in training numerous black chartered accountants, Nkonki Sizwe Ntsaluba (later renamed Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo).

In her opening address, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula, expressed gratitude to the graduates, their families and colleagues who attended the ceremony. The VC stated that Unisa, as the pioneer of open distance and e-learning globally, has made quality high education accessible for all.

"Every year, we produce a significant number of graduates who are knowledgeable and skilled in different academic disciplines and are ready to apply their new knowledge to question the advances in society and to ensure that knowledge becomes fashionable, important and a rallying point for transformation and the improvement of the human condition," stated the VC.


Improvements in the higher education sector

Receiving his doctorate, Nxasana expressed his thanks for the support of

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Sizwe Nxasana

his family, colleagues and friends, and his alma mater – Unisa, stating that they are the ones who make it possible for him to reach out for his dreams and passions.

Nxasana said that when he retired from corporate life, he invested in solutions that could improve the country's education quality. Thus, he became a school teacher and registered with the university. He said: "I saw the light years later in my life and decided to be a school teacher, and this Friday, I am writing my PGCE exams at Unisa." In addition, Nxasana said he is pursuing a PhD in Education at Aalborg University in Denmark. "I strongly believe that if you are trying to solve any problem, it is important to feel what it is like and experience the system that you are trying to improve," he said.

Ten years ago, Nxasana stated that he approached the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, together with Dr Godwin Khoza (CEO of NECT), to develop the National Education and Collaboration Trust (NECT). The organisation seeks to answer the National Development Plan (NDP) objectives. He stated: "This year, the NECT celebrated its 10th anniversary, and it is now involved in curriculum development and design, teacher training and development in over 19 000 of the 25 000 schools in the country."

Nxasana stated that he was chair of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) on 12 October 2015, during the height of the student unrest known as #FeesMustFall. Two years later, Nxasana said that Ikusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (ISFAP) was started to assist the poor and "missing" middle university students in high-demand fields, including engineering, medicine and accounting. "So far, we have managed to raise more than R1.25 billion and funded more than 2800 students across universities in the country," he elaborated.

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Dignitaries at the #UnisaSpringGraduations and Sizwe Nxasana's honorary doctorate ceremony

In addition to recognising Unisa as an outstanding open-distance education institution, Nxasana said the university has made education accessible to many people who would have been systematically excluded from having access to higher education. "Unisa has allowed Evelyn Nxasana, my mother and many others who had doors shut by other universities due to being too old or poor an opportunity to pursue their dreams against all odds." He stated that his mother pursued her matric at 50 and went on to study at Unisa, earning a degree at 58.

Nxasana has made exceptional contributions to the professional field of financial accounting, mentoring and promotion of young aspiring financial executives, economic upliftment of previously disadvantaged sector groups through self-initiated financial support programmes, and a life-long commitment to opening doors for young financial professionals.

#Unisa150

* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2023/10/03