Durban – The journey of moving from gardener to successful accountant has not been easy for Tawonga Kalawangoma.
“Being a foreign national in South Africa is not for the faint-hearted. You have to adapt to a new life and do the best you can to survive,” said Kalawangoma.
His father left his job in Zimbabwe because of major pay cuts, moving to Botswana in search of a better job. With no luck, he moved to South Africa, settling in New Germany.
“He was forced to start from scratch in South Africa and had to take what he could to survive.
“I also needed to make money so I worked as a gardener earning R100 a day.
“Sometimes they wouldn’t pay me. I lived a simple life with donated clothes and shoes.
“That would make me feel inferior in a church with people from wealthier households,“ said Kalawangoma.
He said some circumstances forced people to sacrifice who they were to fit in.
“If you come from a rich background and affluence seems simple to you, sometimes you wouldn’t understand how a poor Zimbabwean man attending the same church would feel when you look down on them,” said Kalawangoma.
As a youngster, he thought the money he earned from gardening would sustain him and was content with the wages he made in the neighbourhood. His mother, however, wanted him to go back to school.
“She sat me down and told me to re-evaluate my life.
“She reminded me that I was in a foreign country and was not afforded the same privilege as the citizens who were my friends and church mates.
“She told me to go back to school and study for a career that would sustain me and my family one day.
“I value that conversation because it helped me understand that even if I wanted to become a church minister one day, I would be better as an educated one,” said Kalawangoma.
His journey to being a chartered accountant registered with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) was no smooth ride.
“Some people can hate you but because you’re a foreigner not because they know you. It can be confusing with self-hatred from Africans who have dark skin as I do.
“It’s self-hatred. I am blessed academically but could not afford the best schools and had to push further because of where I come from.”
He attended a college and then studied further at Unisa.
“I did not qualify for a subsidy at the financial firms because of being a foreigner and I was last to be considered when hiring. It damaged my belief in myself.”
He finally found work in Newcastle, and started moving up with bigger companies, including a stint as a financial manager at a manufacturing company.
But he wanted more challenges.
“I realised that I fell behind on my technical knowledge and I missed people, research and full-scale accounting practice.
“That’s when I started a firm. The first client approached me. I was reluctant at first, but my friends encouraged me and some became my customers,“ said Kalawangoma.
Kalawangoma started The Kings Chartered Accountants and works from his home in Hillcrest.
He also wants to start an NPO that will work with supermarkets and buy food or receive clothing donations for those who are disadvantaged.
“Here in SA, some people can’t afford the basics to survive.
“Why not put our excess in the hands of someone without instead of throwing it away?
“I want to start a business that distributes the surplus to the poor,” said Kalawangoma.
He also wants to buy a private school which operated in Pinetown, but closed in 2020, and hopes to start a family in future, saying you can have success but “being alone is not good”.
“I don’t believe I was created to be alone and I know that having a family of my own would give me direction in my personal life,” said Kalawangoma.
The Independent on Saturday