Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
Collecting money from people whose accounts are in arrears can be a daunting task, but not for Philile Madonsela, deputy head of arrears management department at the eThekwini municipality.
Armed with a wealth of experience in finance and accounting, Madonsela breathes figures. She has headed the unit since 2004 and is not intimidated by the fact that she has to manage the accounts of more than three million people who fall within her municipality.
She and her team of about 100 people have made it their task to help people with financial constraints settle their bills and avoid losing their properties.
Madonsela is one of only two women at executive management level. She tells Khanyisile Nkosi how she has managed to keep her feet firmly on the ground as she made inroads into the world of finance and accounting.
Q: How long have you been with the council.
A: I've been with the council since 1997. I started in audits and then I moved to various departments before I got to my current position.
Q: How has women participation been in this field?
A: Although we are seeing more women in accounting, there are still very few of them in senior management. I have a number of women in my unit and my plan is to have more women and groom them for higher positions. I think we are getting women in top positions, but the progress is slow.
Q: How has it been for you here so far?
A: Hard. Collecting money from customers is a difficult challenge because some people cannot afford. The most difficult part is when we eventually go into sales. If you don't pay we disconnect and hand you over to the legal department, who then get a judgment against you and eventually get the property sold. Since I've been here, we have excluded quite a number of customers from going through that process, particularly those who own residential properties. We try and think of other strategies to get the money without them losing their properties, but I'm firm on businesses. We disconnect immediately when businesses are in arrears. We have no mercy on them.
Q: Have you always wanted to be a debt collector?
A: I'm actually here by default. I wanted to be a social worker because I've always wanted to help people, but my father would have none of it. I never saw my self as an accountant until I went to varsity and here I am now and I'm enjoying it.
Q: What are your strengths?
A: I am firm in my decisions. I'm kind and I consult with my team. I work well with people.
Q: What is your response to perceptions that women are not good leaders?
A: I think women are great leaders. They are leaders in various ways as we have seen in our homes. We know that most households are led by women and I believe that is the one strong quality women possess.
Q: In your opinion what makes a good leader?
A: A person who can motivate and inspire other people to do their best and treat everybody with respect is a good leader.
Q: Why is it that women still lag behind in leadership positions despite the opportunities available to them?
A: We are still dealing with stereotypes. I can't lie and say everything is hanky-dory out there. There are still serious challenges facing women. We are still hearing stories that women are not good enough to lead, but I believe that eventually we will break those barriers
Q: Did you have to work double as hard to prove yourself to your colleagues?
A: I've been in a situation where I worked with males and we are doing the same thing. They earned more than I did and they were not doing anything different to what I was doing. These are challenges facing women.