The SABC’s Tendai Matore wants to leave his mark

Tendai Matore is no stranger to challenges, and he has learnt to face it head-on.

Zimbabwean-born Tendai Matore had no desire to be in the public sector, but it seems as if life had other plans. Having run a small consulting firm for two years, he found himself doing work for the SABC in resolving a particularly challenging audit qualification.

“I noticed that the SABC were saddled with various financial reporting and control challenges, but none of these problems seemed insurmountable,” he recalls.

He describes it as the “perfect storm” when he joined the SABC.

“The SABC had suffered a disclaimer audit opinion, there was essentially no financial reporting team as the whole function had been outsourced to a contractor whose contract was being terminated, and the CFO’s office had seen a revolving door of appointments,” he says.

“This was enough to dissuade any well-meaning accountant who cared about their reputation to join the organisation. But I learnt at Ernst & Young that by accepting big, messy, or complicated audits one progresses faster than your peers.” The SABC provided just another challenge that required conquering.

In 2017, he was brought in permanently to lead a special finance turnaround strategy to improve internal controls, address technical IFRS accounting matters, resolve a three-year running audit qualification, and review the effectiveness of revenue-growth strategies.

Unfortunately, his appointment coincided with a leadership renewal project that carried a lot of negative publicity for the SABC. This made the task of building the central reporting team difficult. He admits there were times when he had to literally beg people to apply for positions, and many brave enough to attend the interviews, would not accept offers or even reply to decline offers. It was a tall order to turn around the SABC’s financial reporting shortcomings and systems.

“In the early days, whilst trying to address the slew of audit qualifications, I executed my primary functions from eight to five, took a break and assumed a second role of managing the fixed assets team and the reconstructing of a credible asset register. It became a true labour of love to improve the audit outcomes of the SABC.

“As the audit outcomes improved, and the leadership renewal came into effect, it became easier to recruit and grow the finance team. This has helped to sustain the positive trend in the audit outcomes. There is currently only a single audit qualification (relating to the PFMA non-compliance on irregular expenditure) that remains. This is being diligently addressed and will be resolved soon,” he says.

According to Tendai, the turnaround and improvement of the SABC audit outcomes and financial controls, has been his greatest professional challenge to date.

“I have witnessed how the dignity of employees in the public sector was eroded. They were unfairly viewed as incompetent based on the association to and proximity with the general governance failures in the state-owned companies. I hope that by succeeding in my role, I can move the scales back in restoring the dignity of countless professionals who do their best each day in the public sector. As a foreign national, I also see my part in the turnaround, to offer gratitude to a country that offered relief to my countrymen.”

Working at the SABC
As the head of financial and management reporting, he leads the finance function for the SABC’s core business areas, which are radio, video entertainment (television), technology and sales.

“The finance division plays a key business advisory role in supporting decision-making and financial risk mitigation. Key responsibilities include the financial support of the strategic plan, preparing budgets, forecasting, reporting, control of the income statement, cash flow and capital adequacy management. Then there’s also the traditional financial reporting side, internal controls, and governance processes,” says Tendai.

He enjoys the financial planning side of his job. “I do an exercise with my team where all the team members are required to identify forward-looking key insights that they can share with executives in the business. This takes them out of the daily drudgery of routine activities and focuses them on discovery of relevant, actionable, and unknown risk or opportunities that can enhance company performance. It is always interesting to see the results. Sometimes the exercise is more important than the results. We are constantly looking towards the future while trying to meet current targets – it is the perpetual marrying of strategy and numbers.”

Tendai admits that his goal has always been to “at least leave a mark on the public sector, and specifically within the SABC, and to be part of the turnaround at the SOE”.

“Once we do that or once I feel that I’ve done my part and enhanced my skills set, I will be ready for the next step in my career.”

He holds the SABC’s CFO, Yolande van Biljon, in high esteem and says that she is someone who not only talks about integrity but also demonstrates it daily.

“She believes in accountability and hard work. She teaches the team to keep an eye on the details and to be plugged into the business for finance to be an effective enabler. Most importantly, she wants finance to be a strong voice in business decisions and to be bold to challenge business decisions where appropriate.”

What motivates him?
Tendai’s favourite saying is: “We are what we repeatedly do.”

“I live by these words. If you want to be excellent, you should try to be excellent every day, even in the smallest things. If you see yourself being a CEO, you need to act like a CEO every day. You don't suddenly just become a CEO. We must work on our ambitions every day and even when we are alone. Live your dream every day.”

Tendai is also an aspiring writer. “I have only published one article, but I would love to write books. I am contemplating a book on social life lessons. Here’s an example: You go to school, and you are educated for your future job. But you never learn how to be a good man, father, or husband,” says Tendai, who has a five-year old son.

“Now that I'm married, I know you can get marriage counselling or couples counselling, but I think people wait too long to ask for help and to learn the appropriate relationship skills. I, for instance, grew up in a single parent household. My dad passed away when I was young, so I never saw an example or learnt any lessons on how to be a good husband and father. I have worried a lot on whether I would be a good father or not. I think it will be great to get a dialogue going on this subject and a book could be valuable to people who have experienced similar circumstances.”