CityLife Arts

UP Close and Personal with Christine McDonald

Chief Financial Officer at the Market Theatre Foundation

In Today’s edition of the series marking Women/s Month, focusing on women leaders at the Market Theatre Foundation, CITYLIFE/ARTS editor EDWARD TSUMELE (ET) speaks to CHRISTINE SMITH MCDONALD, (CM) Chief Financial officer of the Market Theatre Foundation.

ET: You joined the Market Theatre in 2003 as its Chief financial Officer when the organisation at the time was facing some financial turbulence of sorts, and you have since not only managed to stabilise the situation, but put up financial systems that have made sure that the organization has strong financial management system. Can you tell us about that journey.

CM: The Market Theatre grew in leaps and bounds since 2003. When I joined the Market Theatre’s offices were dilapidated and liabilities exceeded its assets by R2 million. It was about to close its doors. But the Department of Arts and Culture gave the Market one last chance, provided a new CFO is appointed. I was in between jobs and agreed to join for 6 months.

In the past 16 years, with the help of DSAC and a strong management team with a common goal, we grew the net assets of the Market to R165 million. With DSAC funding we were able to develop Market Square including state of the art offices, rehearsal, training and exhibition spaces and a 4th theatre. In addition, 2 of the 3 theatres in the theatre building were renovated and we hope to start work on the 3 rd theatre and the Windybrow theatre this year.

The Market still lives from hand to mouth as it is its purpose to spend the funding received on programmes and buildings, but the management team does this in a very disciplined and responsible way with good planning and budgeting.

ET: .The corporate sector is changing though slowly about its attitude towards women leadership and their potential to lead just as good as men can. How is the transformation situation in the financial sector today, 26 years after democracy, especially when it comes to female CFOs.

CM: My experience has been that the financial sector has taken the lead in appointing women in leading positions. I have been working in the financial sector for the past 36 years and I have fortunately never experienced discrimination as a female, not in the private sector and not at the Market.

ET. One of the roles of leaders such as yourself is to mentor young people, both formally and informally, so that they too can one day have a leg into the sector, such as finance. Have you considered that in your long career in the field of finance?

CM: I have a passion for enabling young people and through my career I have been lucky enough to work with a number of young talented women who were ready and eager to climb the corporate ladder, and most of them have made progress in their careers.

At the Market, Lusanda Zokufa, developed from an intern in the publicity department in 2003 to running all the communications for the Market today. She is respected as a power to be reckoned with in publicity and she is connected.

Tshiamo Mokgadi joined as an administrator in production, was promoted to the producer position, then left the Market for a few years to return next month as the CEO of the Market Theatre Foundation.

Another rising star is Thuli Hlaneke who has taken over the management of all the facilities of the Market during her term at the Market. She is an excellent manager and in charge of the Covid 19 programme.

Recently, Seipati Ncube joined the finance department when Reuben Myanga retired after 42 years of service. Seipati was transferred from production and walked in with confidence, taking over the position without any difficulty or hick up. It is wonderful to see these success stories unfold.

Lastly, I was lucky to work with Annabell Lebethe, CEO of the Market, for 4 years until 2016. She was a strong leader, with an excellent work ethic. I learnt a lot from her.

ET. The Market Theatre Foundation Council has appointed its second women Chief Executive Officer, who in terms of age is relatively young and therefore will inject some youth energy into the institution at leadership level. But also this is interpreted as having faith in women leadership. What are your thoughts on this new development?

CM: I am ecstatic that Tshiamo is joining us again as the CEO. She will bring a youthful energy and a lot of different experiences to the Market from PACOFS and the State Theatre. I will support her and look forward to working with Tshiamo again. She knows the arts sector very well and will hit the ground running. Tshiamo is the right person for the position and she joins in time for the Market’s 45th anniversary.

The management team of the Market currently consists of 8 female managers and 3 males. There was no specific plan to promote women. We simply promoted the best person for the job and they happened to be mostly female:

Clara Vaughn heads up the Market Lab and has grown the Lab’s income tremendously. Keitu Gwangwa joined as the Head of the Windybrow recently and is developing the Windybrow’s programme.

Penny Morris has been with the Market for more than 30 years and has raised hundreds of millions for the Market over the years. She has saved the Market several times. Perpetua Matsha heads the HR department. Zama Buthelezi is the Brand and communications manager. Zodwa Shongwe is the producer of the Market, responsible for putting +/- 40 productions on the Market stages each year.

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