Society looks towards the accounting profession for guidance on the value of assets, the potential of transactions, the risks of wealth creation, the strategies to grow business and countless more ways of making the place where we live a better place for all. The study of accounting principles represents only one aspect of the holistic function of the profession in modern societies. The Department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg has acknowledged the fact that accounting techniques represent the skills needed to calculate risk, reward and value. Accountants are though also people who exercise a profound influence on how social values are articulated and upheld. The South African Accounting History Centre, the first of its kind in South Africa, is testimony to the fact that the Department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg, fully endorses the social responsibility that goes with the ability to calculate, advise and offer assurance. In this capacity the SAAHC engages in research on the role of accountants as professionals, and how the profession was formed, developed and transformed. In South Africa the first accountants were active in different financial capacities since the Dutch East India Company rule in the seventeenth century, but after the British colonial occupation in 1806, more British accountants settled in the cape Colony. As soon as 1820 the British Colonial Government appointed accountants to the administration in the colony and by 1895 a network of British trained accountants established a South African Committee of accountants to promote the professional interests of accountants, but also to serve the public interest in upholding professional standards in education, training and public practice in the British Colonies as well as the two Boer Republics. Social capital developed in the professional network. Accountants were active citizens in social organisations, such as welfare organisations, in different sporting clubs, such as tennis and cricket clubs, and in education as members of schools’ governing boards. The emerging role of the accounting profession in South Africa, even before the four British Colonies entered into the constitutional union of 1910, was one of social engagement, business development and assuring the public interest.
The research conducted in the SAAHC has contributed to the first comprehensive manuscript on the development of the accounting profession in South Africa since the early nineteenth century, as well as the development of the dual role of private business champion and protector of the public interest. Further research by the SAAHC explores the development of some of the leading current financial services firms, such as PWC, as well as the manner in which the profession negotiated its position amidst growing public regulation of professional activities. The SAAHC has offered the department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg the mechanism of teaching its students the holistic context of the profession.
“Accountancy is the framework of modern industrial society”, according to Burhell, Hopwood and other authors. The making of the South African economy and the development of the thriving business environment attracting foreign interest, has much to thank the accountancy profession for. But while we know a great deal about accounting technology, we know very little about the people who shaped the profession and developed accountancy as a proud profession in South Africa.
Minutes of Meeting
The SAAHC is currently writing the history of the accountancy profession in South Africa. The fascinating research takes us back to the gold fields and the first law to acknowledge the profession in the Transvaal colony in 1904. The Transvaal Society of Accountants (TSA) then emerged as the leading professional accountancy body, which assisted the formation of similar societies in the Natal Colony in 1909, the Cape Colony in 1907 and the Orange Free State in 1908.SAAHC Moving Forward – 26 April 2013
The South African Accounting History Centre in the Department of Accountancy at the University of Johannesburg is moving forward with efficient speed.Barbara Conradie
At present the valuable archival material in the archives is sorted and inventorised by the doyen of archivists in South Africa Barbara Conradie. Barbara was the renowned Group Archivist of Standard Bank for more than 25 years. She is currently working in the SAAHC Archives in 4 Goring Avenue, Auckland Park. More than 45 meters of primary material is sorted, read and inventorised to compile an electronic inventory to the SAAHC Archive.South African Accountancy History Centre
The minute books of the four Chartered Societies of Accountants that formed SAICA in 1980, are in these archives. The minute books of the Transvaal Society of Accountants are almost complete, from the 1920s to the early 1990s are in the archives. The minute books of the Cape Society of Accountants from 1907 to the early 1990s are completes, as well as copies of the minute books of the Society of Accountants if the Orange Free State since 1908 to the early 1990s. The minute books of the Natal Society of Accountants are only available from 1940 until the early 1990s.
Further primary material in the form of minute books from the Joint Council and the National Council of the Chartered Societies from 1942 until the formation of SAICA, are in the archives. These documents will be included in the electronic inventory, which will enable researchers across South Africa to use these unique sources.
Barbara Conradie spends many hours reading through the sources and then writes up a brief summary of the content, which is then indexed and included in the inventory. The aim is to make this archive accessible to all Accounting History researchers world-wide.
The SAAHC Archives was also honoured by an invaluable donation of rare books on Accounting History by Professor Emeritus Barbara Merino, from the University of Texas. She has adopted the development of Accounting History in South Africa as a field of study and research as a project she wishes to support. Her encouragement was felt through the receipt of a set of her own valuable Accounting History book collection.
Other supporters of the SAAHC have also emerged. Mr Herman Erasmus, a retired CA(SA) from the Northern Cape, donated his collection of the professional periodical The South African Accountant/ Die Suid-Afrikaanse Rekenmeester to the archive. An almost complete set of periodicals from 1972 to 1997 are now available for research purposes. An extensive library donated by the late CA(SA) Mr Lemmer makes up a sizeable number of the dedicated books in the SAAHC Library. Professor Lucas van Vuuren has also donated books on the early history of Accounting Education to the UJ Library and these books are currently in the Rare Book Collection. Furthermore the family of the late Professor Piet Hoek, the founder member of the audit firm Hoek & Wiehan in Pretoria, donated some of his personal documents to the archive. The firm Hoek & Wiehan contracted Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu as an articled clerk min their offices in Umtata and he then became the first black accountant in South Africa.
The wealth of the history of the accountancy profession in South Africa is finally finding a home in the SAAHC Archives. Any person interested in using the archives, or wishing to donate relevant profession related material to the archive, can contact the SAAHC at 011 559 2008.