Mathabo Makhaya has not only risen to senior management at Harmony Gold Mining but has also dedicated herself to driving change and equality in her industry and community.
Coming from a poverty-stricken background, Mathabo Makhaya learnt the art of hard work at an early age. This, she said, has continuously shaped her work ethic and pushed her to succeed.
“I have had to be three times more prepared than my average counterpart, which shaped my work ethic to what it is now. I have failed, and have not let failure define me. I have had to master courage from an early age,” she said.
She explains that she consistently ensures that her leadership is inclusive and fosters an environment that provides opportunities to marginalised groups of people.
“I do this through advocacy, mentorship, policy and strategy development to remove structural barriers to inclusion, and actively providing support to underrepresented groups,” she said.
A ripple effect
As a leader in a rapidly growing company, Mathabo places great emphasis on the significance of maintaining an inclusive leadership style that fosters an environment that provides opportunities to marginalised groups.
She added that her leadership style serves as a role model for others, demonstrating the powerful impact that business leaders can have on society.
“By integrating purpose, equity, and inclusion into my leadership approach, I have created a ripple effect that extends far beyond the boundaries of the different organisations I am involved in,” she said.
Mathabo’s journey is not just about personal success, but also about paving the way for the next generation of accountants. She actively uses her leadership platform to drive meaningful conversations and influence positive societal transformations through thought leadership: she’s an activist and an advocate for gender equality and inclusion.
She serves as a board member for the Young Leaders Connect (YLC) IDEAL (Identify, Develop, Empower, Accelerate Leadership) Programme, which was launched in August 2020.
The YCL IDEAL program identifies aspiring young leaders and develops them into effective and ethical leaders through training and mentorship.
Mathabo explains that she has identified 10 women that she mentors personally to become the next great leaders, “through various formal training sessions and conversations around serving and working on boards”.
Mathabo studied for a BCom in accounting at the University of Witwatersrand and completed her diploma in accountancy (CTA) there.
Not only is Mathabo excelling in the boardroom, but she was also the overall winner of the Saica Top 35-under-35 competition in 2022, for making a substantial contribution to the mining sector.
The Top 35-under-35 competition recognises young CA(SA) achievers who are not only excelling in their professional capacity, but are also making a meaningful contribution to society.
Mathabo, who places a strong emphasis on education, attributes her thriving career to mentorship and networking.
Her educational journey has provided her with a solid foundation to confidently tackle professional obstacles in her current role.
“My educational journey has been a series of enriching experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. It has equipped me with the necessary knowledge, skills, and mindset to contribute effectively to my profession and society as a whole,” she added.
She said that networking provides opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and access to development. “I have also learned that no experience is a wasted experience; you either learn what to do or what not to do,” she said.
What it takes to grow
Mathabo has a profound understanding of the need for growth experienced through challenges.
“Sometimes growth is disguised as hard work, and success is entangled in a crisis, so as a leader always be willing to do the hard work, the challenging and sometimes painful work and, most times, fulfilment will emerge from that."
With in-depth knowledge of challenges in the mining sector, she said it was important to face them head-on in order to grow.
However, she added that people should ask for help when they are struggling. “I have overcome adversity through asking for help when I need it, mentorship that has opened doors for me and put faith in my capabilities.”
A fulfilling environment
Facing challenges head-on has taught Mathabo new skills that she now uses in her current role as a mother.
She shared that she has found solace in Harmony Gold Mining’s family-centric ethos, where she received invaluable support on her motherhood journey.
“The holistic approach to employee management at Harmony is one of the reasons why I chose the company and why I keep choosing the company,” she said.
This alignment between personal ethos and corporate culture has not only paved the way for her career trajectory but has also fostered a fulfilling professional environment.
During her time at the company, she has transitioned from group financial manager for health to senior treasury manager at Harmony Gold Mining.
She says when she’s not working, she prioritises spending quality time with her young family.
As a leader, she encourages people to take on formidable tasks, even when they seem tough. “True satisfaction comes from facing and overcoming these difficulties,” she said.