By Lindeka Namba, School of Journalism and Media Studies student
Rhodes University alumnus, Unathi Kamlana, has been appointed a Commissioner of the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA). Kamlana, who was appointed by Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, will head the FSCA for a period of five years.
Kamlana has held the position of Head of Policy, Statistics, and Industry Support at the Prudential Authority within the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) for over five years but has been at the SARB for more than ten years. Having held other regulatory policy roles in the past, he felt well prepared for his new role.
This is the most senior role he has ever held in his career thus far. He said he received the news of his new appointment with great excitement and some anxiety. “This appointment comes with new challenges and a lot of expectations,” he said. Kamlana also added that in his new role, he hopes to provide steady leadership, clarity of direction, and strategy.
Kamlana arrived at Rhodes University in 1998 to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce degree and was accepted into the BCom ‘Foundation Programme’, which is now known as the Extended Studies Programme. He admits that his initial attraction to the University was the funding opportunity that was available to him. As a student who came from a humble background, the availability of funding was of particular importance. He decided to stay at Rhodes University because of the environment he encountered when he arrived. “When I got to Rhodes University, it felt like I was part of an extended family rather than just a university,” he said. “I really found the university to be an interesting environment for learning and growing holistically,” he added.
The newly appointed Commissioner described his time at Rhodes University as “some of the best years” of his life. In his undergraduate years, he spent his time in the residence system, where he made some close friends, some of whom became his lifetime friends. Kamlana also met the woman who later became his wife at Rhodes University. He said meeting her in his final year was something that almost did not happen. As an Economics and Information Systems major, some of his fondest memories include spending long hours in the computer labs and learning some of the most important lessons from his friends. “My very first encounter with a computer was at Rhodes University,” he said.
After completing his degree in 2001, he went on to work in the private sector for three years. During this time, he also completed a higher diploma in taxation through Wits University. However, in 2005 he returned to his beloved Rhodes University to pursue his Master’s degree in Taxation. The most important lesson he learned at Rhodes University was the importance of insight and foresight for leaders. “The time I spent at the university opened up my perspective and views on life in general,” he said.
Kamlana credits the many wonderful and inspiring lecturers he met during his years at Rhodes University for laying the foundation in him to grow into the leader that he is today. He particularly recalls how his then BCom Extended Studies lecturer and programme coordinator, Esté Coetzee, played such a significant role in the formative years of his academic career. “She took a keen interest in the holistic development of the students,” he said. “The class sizes were so small back then, so she would really follow up on my progress throughout my university career,” added.
Kamlana concluded by saying that without the vision of the Extended Studies Programme, many of the students who came from the same background as him would not have succeeded in an environment like Rhodes University.
Kamlana, who describes himself as a “public servant” at heart, hopes that his new appointment will set him up to rise to higher levels of leadership and senior executive roles. He added that he has no intentions of moving out of the public sector. However, he does not rule out the possibility of moving back to the private sector, because after all, this was where he had his humble beginnings.
With the current lockdown regulations firmly in place, Kamlana has not been able to report for duty in a physical office for several months. Along with many others around him, he has had to adjust to working virtually from home. His advice to everyone is to be more agile, flexible, and responsible. These characteristics, he said, are “applicable and very useful as a student, a young or established professional, and as a leader”.