Companies Tribunal’s Bridget Ramugadi on making a difference

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Hulisani Bridget Ramugadi, the CFO of the Companies Tribunal, continues to learn and flourish in the public sector.

Her determination is probably the quality that she is most proud of, admits Hulisani's Bridget Ramugadi. “I fight for my goals and work hard for my achievements. I had no experience in the public sector when I first applied for a job in the Department of Transport, but I fought for my space and stayed.

“It is that determination that saw me grow through the ranks and different entities in the public service. It requires patience, determination, and research to get up to speed with what the public service is all about. There is loads of information on the private sector, but when it comes down to it, you must sit down and read, as there are regulations for everything.

“In the finance space, one is not aware of all the different forms, etc., and you can easily be charged with non-compliance just because you don’t understand the steps and regulations. One needs to learn and to meet with people to understand what the entity or department is all about,” says Bridget.

She explains that it is an environment that requires focus. “Corruption in the public sector often makes the headlines and one needs to be aware of the dangers to protect the coffers of your organisation. It is a challenging space, but I enjoy my work. We are the change that needs to happen and when you wake up every day, and you say I will make a difference, you will move up the chain. People will benefit from what we are doing now.”

The Companies Tribunal is an agency of the Department of Trade, Industry, and Competition (DTIC) and established in terms of the Companies Act 71 of 2008 to provide a speedy resolution of company disputes.

Bridget says the main challenge of the tribunal is that people are currently not using their services fully or to the desired level. “We provide these services for free, and people often think when it is for free, it is not of a good quality. Hence, they are going to normal courts when they could use our services and get the desired outcome within lesser time compared to normal courts.”

Bridget’s role is to administer the funds and to contribute to the strategic direction of the organisation. “My role contributes to growing the organisation to where the DTIC would want it to be in terms of assisting companies. I focus on issues relating to strategic overview, managing the risks, and ensuring that we have adequate resources as an organisation. The Companies Tribunal currently only has two executives – the chief operations officer and myself. So my role becomes very important in supporting the organisation to achieve those objectives.”

Their goal is to grow case numbers and to assist more and more people, she says: “There are many companies who are struggling with lengthy disputes, whether it is to remove a director, to hold an AGM, to social responsibility, and they don't know who to turn to. Our goal as an entity is to ensure that we reach those people and assist them.”

Bridget’s personal goal is to continue to grow in her career. She has applied to pursue an LLB. “I am of the view that if you want to remain relevant you must diversify your knowledgebase. This degree will be my focus for the next four years.”

Bridget is no stranger to overcoming obstacles and it was not easy to attain her career goals coming from a remote village in northern Limpopo. She grew up in Mianzwi, a village in Venda. Coming from an irrigation scheme, farming has always been close to her heart and at school she wanted to become a farmer. A neighbour suggested office administration, but as someone who always loved working with numbers, she decided to pursue accounting.

Bridget studied BCom at the University of Venda and worked for Absa as a teller for about a year.

“I realised that this was not working for me and went back to school. I got a contract with Sizwentsaluba and did my articles there. Once I completed it, I worked as an audit supervisor for another two years and studied while working – I did my postgraduate diploma in accounting with Unisa and my MBA with Mancosa. I went on to work for the Department of Transport, and later for one of their trading entities called Driving Licence Card Account (DLCA). After a couple of years, I moved on to Freedom Park, where I was the CFO for three years. I then joined the Companies Tribunal,” she says.

On mentors and motivation
Bridget mentions that her biggest motivation is seeing other women excelling in things that people say women cannot do. “It gives me hope and confirms that my dreams are also valid,” she says.

According to Bridget there have been mentors in her life who guided her and are still guiding her with valuable advice.

“When I joined the public service, I was a bit apprehensive to make certain decisions and one thing that my mentor at the department, Collins Letsoalo, taught me, was when you make a decision, first think about it and take the consequences into account. The CEO of Freedom Park, Jane Mufamadi, taught me the importance of patience when one is a leader.”

Family, farming and giving-back
Once she saw herself as a farmer and today, she and her husband own a farm that her husband farms. They have big plans for the farm and would love to expand the business. The couple have two children, an 11-year-old girl and nine-year-old boy.

Family support is critical when you choose to be a career woman, says Bridget. “When you make a career decision, it must be supported by your support structure. There are days when you will be preparing the financials, and you will come home at midnight and there is homework that needs to be done. I am very fortunate to have a supportive family structure.

“When I am in a boardroom presenting, I don’t worry about what my kids are going to eat, because I know they are taken care of. My husband, in particular, provides an environment where the kids are taken care of, and I can just focus when I’m at work.”

Finance executives are well aware that they work in a demanding space with high stress levels and when at home, Bridget tries her best to leave work behind and to focus on creating a calming environment.

One of her hobbies is soap-making. “When I feel stressed, I just go into my kitchen, and I make soap or body lotion for myself, family, or friends. I also make jewellery such as earrings and bracelets,” she says.

For Bridget, who knows what it takes to leave a remote rural village and to achieve success, it is important to give back and to guide young people. “I am involved with a few activities in my home village, especially with career guidance to young people. In our village, people don’t have access to resources. I provide the learners with information and guidance about opportunities after school so that they can make an informed decision. I take laptops with me and provide them with free WiFi so they can apply before the universities’ closing dates. Information about opportunities is vital,” she says.

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