Mabaso-Koyana has the kind of career with which many of us can identify. It includes being a single mum with fierce ambitions for her daughter, excellent academics, good job opportunities and ultimate financial success. Her path differs from the norm, though, when you consider the very public roles she’s taken on – and the highs and lows that resulted.

Now in the investment and entrepreneurial space, she says she’s better able to appreciate the tough turns she took at government firms earlier in her career.

Currently the Executive Chairperson of the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) Investment Holding Company, Mabaso-Koyana’s driving new investments for the organisation. Additionally, she’s a 12,5% equity shareholder in Bell Equipment SA, a company to which she owed hundreds of millions of rands just a few years ago.

It’s a turnaround story of note.

A STRICT START

Growing up in Umlazi, Durban, Mabaso-Koyana has distinct memories of being mentioned in the morning newspaper as one of the best matriculants in the province. Excellence shadowed her.

“I was fortunate to be grounded by a single mother. Back then, the belief was that if you grew up with no male father figure, you were bound to become ‘loose’ or go off the rails. She went out of her way to prove society wrong and bring up one of the best human beings,” Mabaso-Koyana says with not a shred of facetiousness, as if she felt genuinely motivated to comply. She studied long and arduously to qualify as a CA.

“I remember complaining to my professor that I was battling with report-writing. His advice was to read novels – fiction that had nothing to do with auditing. My problem was that I was spending all my time reading academic and finance work. My brain needed a refresher,” she laughs.

She says she remains “in awe” of the grounding her mother gave her. “I grew up with very strict parameters that brought things into line consistently,” she adds.

Interestingly, now – as a mother herself to children aged 11 and nine – she says she’s realised how overbearing that experience might have been. It’s made her and husband become “more liberal” parents.

“My husband had a more liberal upbringing than mine, so the two of us complement each other. He’s played a developmental role for me because you can’t be strict all the time. You have to allow kids to be and to make mistakes.”