CFO Sandiso Gcwabe is nurturing public value


Wesgro CFO Sandiso Gcwabe's journey within the public sector is anchored in a sense of purpose.

Wesgro CFO Sandiso Gcwabe’s journey through the public sector began at the Auditor-General’s office. It was a starting point that set the stage for his deep dedication to public service.

Looking back, he fondly remembers, “I started my career at the Auditor-General of South Africa where I did my SAICA articles. I worked three years as an assistant manager and then moved to Saldanha Bay Municipality as a financial manager, a decision I’m proud of, especially as it’s now listed as one of the two best financially performing municipalities in the country by Ratings Afrika’s annual Municipal Financial Sustainability Index (MFSI).”

Leading change in the public sector

As he progressed in his career through entities such as the Western Cape Liquor Authority, Sandiso faced challenges that needed a thoughtful approach. He stresses the urgent need to enhance professionalism within the public sector, focusing on skills and system efficiency.

“When stepping into a new role, my first priority is to professionalise the team,” he explains. “This involves instilling a culture of ethics and professionalism in behaviour and conduct and encouraging the team to acquire new skills while fostering a culture of continued professional development.”

A heart committed to purpose

As a CA(SA), Sandiso’s journey within the public sector has been anchored in a profound sense of purpose and service to the community. He believes that being an inspirational leader is crucial for driving transformation.

He emphasises the significance of setting a strong example, stating:

“People should witness the vision coming to life through your actions. Your track record should showcase how you’ve professionalised in the past, and how inclusive your journey of professionalisation has been.”

He says serving public interest and upholding certain values have opened up numerous opportunities for him.

Sandiso shares his involvement with the Khayelitsha Youth & Community Centre Trust, which owns and manages the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha. He was recently appointed as a non-executive director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. This remarkable organisation is dedicated to preserving and advancing the legacy of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a symbol of hope and reconciliation in South Africa.

In a society like South Africa, which has faced complex historical challenges, the work of the foundation is of immense importance. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s legacy represents a commitment to justice, equality, and striving for a better future for all South Africans, regardless of their background.

Sandiso’s involvement with the foundation aligns with his values-driven leadership style. He recognises the significance of carrying forward the legacy of individuals like Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who dedicated their lives to promoting peace, justice, and equality.

Sandiso also serves as Deputy Chairperson of the SAICA Southern Region Public Sector Committee. He says during his active engagement with SAICA, he has come to a profound realisation – the accounting profession offers an incredibly diverse array of career paths.

“Within this landscape, you have the power to blaze new trails within a specific organisation or, equally compelling, join forces with fellow professionals to effect substantial, collective change.” He explains that SAICA, recognising the immense potential of collaboration, has taken a bold step by establishing a Public Sector Committee, with plans to transform it into a full-fledged prescribed committee next year. This initiative aims to bring together like-minded professionals who share a common aspiration: to elevate the standards of the public sector.

“Our vision is ambitious and transformative,” he says. “We envision every CFO, each a qualified CA, leading the charge in projects designed to enhance professionalism within their respective organisations. Through the exchange of innovative models, the fearless tackling of challenges, and the fostering of meaningful dialogues, we believe in creating a ripple effect that propels progress forward.”

He says this is the work that fuels his commitment to SAICA, with a specific focus on the public sector. “We are determined to leverage our extensive network of more than 50,000 members and relationships with stakeholders, uniting our collective strength for the betterment of the public sphere. Together, we are not just shaping our careers; we are shaping the future of the public sector itself.”

Projects pioneering growth in the Western Cape

Sandiso is currently involved in catalytic projects to elevate investment, trade, and tourism in the Western Cape. These initiatives aim to spur economic growth, create jobs, and promote sustainability and competitiveness of the Western Cape economy.

One major effort focuses on improving air access to the region to boost tourism, trade and investment. He explains, “The Cape Town Air Access team is working tirelessly to encourage direct flights between Cape Town International Airport and international destinations. Recent success includes a direct flight between Cape Town and São Paulo, Brazil, enhancing accessibility and connectivity for tourism and trade.”

Direct flights open up opportunities for travellers, smooth goods transportation, and attract investors, ultimately bolstering the local economy and tourism. In 2022 alone, international arrivals at Cape Town International Airport contributed R24 billion to the Western Cape economy, sustaining 10,600 jobs.

He says, “Another initiative, Cruise Cape Town, aims to strengthen tourism by positioning Cape Town as a premier cruise destination. Collaboration with international cruise companies seeks to make Cape Town a preferred port of call, attracting high-spending tourists and benefiting the local economy through foreign currency spending.”

Lastly, Sandiso is working with partners to promote digital transformation and green transition to make the Western Cape economy more competitive and future-proof. Recognising education’s critical role in growth and competitiveness, his work involves promoting partnerships between the public and private sector to drive innovation and unlock investment opportunities in education, among others.

A tapestry woven with family

In the midst of Sandiso’s professional journey lies a strong foundation of family. He graciously offers a glimpse into his personal life, emphasising the role of family in shaping his career.

“Given my busy work schedule, I’ve had to prioritise three things: family, spending time with friends, and pursuing my passion for soccer,” he shares.

With a wife and three children, including a 12-year-old son who is autistic, Sandiso says family has profoundly shaped his perspective and maturity. He explains, “My son has played a significant role in shaping the professional I am. The responsibility that comes with having a child with special needs at an early stage of your life teaches you to be more responsible and to serve others.”

This thread of responsibility stretches across his life tapestry, serving as a constant reminder of the importance of giving back to others and creating a positive impact in the world.

Related articles