Shirley Machaba, CEO of PwC in Southern Africa, has been crowned both the Accounting Industry Leader of the Year and the Overall Professional of the Year for the 2019/2020 period. The accolades were granted by the SA Professional Services Awards sponsored by Sanlam and W. Consulting.

Professionals from various organisations were set to gather at a gala dinner in Montecasino Ball Room on the evening of 19 March 2020 to honour the best amongst them. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the SAPSA Awards were indefinitely postponed. The organisers of the event have subsequently undertaken to progressively announce the winners for the 2019/2020 edition prior to hosting a gathering for all finalists and guests. This marks the fifth edition of the Awards following a rigorous process of determining winners through strict criteria.

Janette Minnaar, the chair of the adjudication panel explained how the winners were determined.

“Individuals were judged based on a host of attributes including demonstration of leadership skills, changing of paradigms and innovation within the bounds of available resources. We also conferred a number of Lifetime Achievement Awards to deserving recipients who had served their professions faithfully for many years,” said Minnaar.

The firm awards were based on the following criteria – business growth, customer service, technical excellence, contribution to the community, contribution to the profession, transformation record and commitment to ethics and professionalism. The criteria were not equally weighted, a strong showing in one category was sufficient to put the firm above the rest.

Machaba’s professional background lies in the public sector. She began her career at the office of the Auditor General of South Africa, where she spent nearly a decade and held a variety of roles. She then worked at the Department of Justice in South Africa prior to joining PwC in 2005. She was appointed CEO of PwC Southern Africa in May 2019 becoming the first black woman to occupy the position.

Academically, Machaba holds a degree in accounting and well as a post graduate diploma in auditing and accounting from the University of South Africa. Her academic qualifications extend to two post-graduate programs, including a diploma in integrated reporting from the University of Pretoria and one in corporate governance from Duke University.

“Ever since her appointment, there have been positive remarks from outside and within the profession,” the judges remarked. “Her humility is not counting herself as an exception is endearing. She recognises that her appointment has the potential impact of inspiring women and the black child to imagine the impossible. Shirley has the admirable vision of building the undisputed number one professional services firm in the country in terms of quality clients and quality people. Her approach of sleeping on a problem will undoubtedly result in success.”

Watch Shirley Machaba’s acceptance speech below: