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Getting Through a Difficult Period

Devan Moonsamy

As we get closer to the end of the year, we may find ourselves and those around us feeling more uptight and stressed than usual. Everyone needs a break and December holidays just won’t come soon enough. November can be a challenging period for numerous other reasons. For example, some are under pressure to meet yearly sales targets while buyers are putting off larger capital purchases for their businesses until next year. Retail sales starts picking up but this comes with additional stress and longer hours for retail staff. The cost of consumer goods and services also increases making it harder for households to get by. Despite the hopes of our family and friends, we may not be able to give them the holiday and gifts they expect.

Some staff members are keen to wait for their bonuses and leave their current job or are just holding on until December and not doing much work at all. This lays extra pressure on managers as well. They may be about to lose good staff while their other staff are putting their feet up already.

This is not to make you feel down though! This is simply an illustration of how life might be for you now and there is a point to this seemingly dreary discussion. Maybe things are actually going well for you and you have little to complain about. Whatever your situation right now, there will be both tougher times and better times to come. Accepting and making the best of a situation is one key to successfully weathering the storms of life. We must endeavour not to make a situation worse for ourselves but actively pursue the best possible outcome.

If things are going well on the other hand, we must avoid complacency and becoming too comfortable. Overconfidence often leads to failure, sometimes even for a large company or an entire nation. Think, for example, of the Greek economic crisis which began in 2009 and had wide-spread repercussions for other countries as well. These economic problems partly resulted from overconfidence which led to recklessness.

Kodak is one company that was doing extremely well and believed that their customers would remain loyal to their brand despite competition. Assuming their position was secure in traditional film-based photography, they did not keep up with the digital technology of their competitors. This is now considered one of the worst business decisions of all time. Once the number one brand in photography, Kodak stopped making a profit in 2007 and filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Since then, Kodak has sold off its assets and their demise has prompted Bill Fischer, a professor of technology management, to state that there are simply ‘no more Kodak moments’ (Forbes Magazine).

So, we want to avoid becoming too comfortable in our position when we are successful. We should rather be cautious and keep ourselves informed of all changes, not assuming that current success will continue indefinitely. Furthermore, we must remember to be thankful for what we have, not becoming greedy for more. We will look at being on guard against negative thought patterns which could prevent us from making progress, especially during stressful times, in the next section.

Overcoming Negative Patterns of Thought

Negative thoughts are unproductive but they have a strong tendency to repeat themselves. Their only purpose may be to reaffirm our suspicious about something that is bothering us but they make us feel out of control and desperate. We may start to believe that terrible things will happen to us or that we have bad luck for some reason. Expecting bad things to happen or expecting that nothing good will ever happen makes us worry about the future. This is negative thinking which leads to fear. Fear in turn leads to a type of ‘paralysis’ in which we cannot move forward with our lives (Orloff, 2010).

Very often we think we are not good enough and criticise ourselves mercilessly. What characterises all negative thinking is that we focus on what is wrong and it makes us worry or choose not to make improvements in our life. What is worse is that we may extend a habit of criticism to others, instilling negativity and low self-confidence in them and leading to arguments and strained relationships. Thus we prevent ourselves and others from being happy.

Negative thoughts often revolve around what we believe is wrong in our environment. Our attention becomes fixed on something which we do not like and we begin to exaggerate it at the expense of everything that is good in our lives. Negative emotions accompany this and our health may suffer. We must therefore counter negative thoughts as much as possible. Here are four ways to curb negative thinking (Orloff, 2010).

  • Safeguard your thoughts. Be careful about what you are thinking. Distract yourself from thinking about the past unless it is truly constructive to do so.Remind yourself not toreflect on unhappy or upsetting experiences as this only leads to more unhappiness and frustration. Continually choose constructive thoughts over stressful ones. Find sources of positive thoughts and emotions by, for example, reading the spiritual texts of your faith for encouragement. Consider the quotes given for each day in this journal or read books about people and subjects that inspire and uplift you.

  • Focus on the present dimension. Right now, the past has little hold on you. Concentrate fully on what is happening in the present and strive to do that well without reference to things that happened in the past. Think deeply about what is around you, from the tiny or everyday objects, to the tasks you need or want to get done today. If you concentrate on improving what is around you and on making progress now, you will.
  • Be an impartial witness. This is not easy and requires persistence. If negative thoughts stick in your mind and have become a habit, reposition yourself outside the situation. Each time we think over an episode from the past which makes us angry, we are forcing ourselves to feel angry again. If you cannot help thinking of the situation again, pretend you are only a passer-by who moves on and does not think of the events again. Allow the recollection to play out if you can’t stop it. Detach yourself from the other people present and the emotions you feel. Keep doing this until you are able to feel neutral about the situation.
  • Do not give up your power. The power you have refers to your ability to make the best of the opportunities you have and enjoying the good that surrounds you now. Do not give up the power you have over what you will do and say today to the unhappiness of the past. Personal contentment is your right and it is within your power to ensure it.

Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: info@ichaftraining.co.za |

Website: www.ichaftraining.co.za |  www.devan-moonsamy.com

Improving Your Communication Skills Becoming a Better Speaker

Devan Moonsamy

Effective presentation skills are vital for all who are or who aspire to be leaders. According to Forbes Magazine, certain presentations can be career defining.

Here are a few rules and tips for becoming a better speaker.

  1. Never wing it! If it’s important, or even if it would simply be some good practice, ensure you are fully prepared and that you practice what you are going to say numerous times.
  2. During your speech, don’t draw attention to your nervousness by speaking about it. People will quickly forgive and forget signs of nervousness, such as stuttering, if you stick to your topic. Focus on the task at hand, rather than your own shortcomings, and you will earn your audience’s respect.
  3. To counter nervousness, you must also ensure authenticity. Being yourself is much less stressful and more believable than trying to be someone else, so speak from your heart. Try to convey genuine warmth and a sense of contentment in order to make the audience comfortable with you. Calmness, combined with alertness, will also go a long way to winning the audience’s confidence.
  4. Ask yourself the following questions before you begin planning what you are going to say:

What am I trying to accomplish? What impact do I want to have on my audience?

For example, do you want to inform your team of new changes to your organisation or to motivate your clients to buy into your brand or do you need to persuade a potential employer of your ability to fulfil the role you have applied for?

Keep the ultimate purpose and desired outcome in mind from the preparation phases right through to the delivery.

  1. Simplify everything. When we write sentences down, they tend to be longer than the sentences we would naturally say out aloud. If you are writing your speech down, bear in mind that convoluted, lengthy sentences will sound irregular when verbalised. Furthermore, condense your ideas and keep them simple so that they will be easier to follow.
  2. Consider the size of your audience and the context. Find out exactly where your presentation will be held and what is available for you to use. Prepare for background challenges, logistics and technical requirements.
  3. You may need to vary the subject and return to it again later if necessary so that you don’t bore the audience. For example, if you need to persuade a potential client to hire you, do not concentrate on yourself too much. Refer to the client’s needs, to the product or service and to the company you work for. Ask questions if possible and address the listener’s concerns.
  1. Use props sparingly, including PowerPoint slides. You need to hold the audience’s attention and keep their focus mainly on you. Make sure your slides do not diverge from what you are saying, or you will confuse your audience. All slides must be precise and easy to read, even for those who are right at the back of the room.

Record Yourself

A great way to make sure you are on the right track is to record yourself delivering the presentation. You will quickly pick up on problems you would not otherwise have noticed. You could do this for the next speech or presentation you need to give or as an exercise to practice and identify problems now. In the latter case, select a topic that you know quite a bit about.

Remember that the audience will notice your facial expressions, gestures and how you stand and move. When you watch the video, identify areas where you can use gestures or points at which you may lose the attention of the audience. Correct this by varying your vocal tone and adding some appropriate and tasteful humour and wit. If you slouch, the quickest way to correct this is the dancer’s trick of aligning the hip and pubic bones vertically.

Record yourself again and check that you are implementing the changes effectively.

Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za |

Website: www.ichaftraining.co.za |  www.devan-moonsamy.com

The Truth About Xenophobia in South Africa

Devan Moonsamy

The view that someone is a threat because of their being a foreigner, and should therefore be pushed out of an organisation, and out of the country, is based on fear. Such fear may be understandable because unemployment is very high in South Africa, and it is also fair that South Africans expect the government and companies to prioritise them. Unemployment is a source of frustration, conflict, poverty, a loss of self-worth and self-confidence, and socioeconomic exclusion. However, this is as true for South Africans as it is for anyone else. Despite our problems, South Africa is among the most stable nations on the continent in terms of our demography, society, economy, and our cherished democracy. Many other Africans live under dictatorships (such as the socialist and oppressive ZANUPF party under Mugabe until November 2017, and now under Mnangagwa) and other oppressive rulerships which have tyrannised the people and plundered the national economy. National stability is partly measured according to the rate of human flight, refugees, and displaced people. Less stable nations, where there is much suffering and poverty, have an outflow of their labour force. Economic and political refugees may have no choice other than to flee to a country where they will be safer. South Africa is still such a safe haven in many respects, and immigrants are afforded temporary or permanent residence and protection. Organisations in South Africa are also employing refugees and immigrants, indicating that there is space for them in the economy. Some Africans are happy to work in South Africa for the most meagre wages rather than return to worse conditions in their home country, which may be war torn or bereft of the most basic human rights.

What seems to make this problematic is job scarcity, particularly for the lower wage categories. Some feel they have everything to lose from an influx of non-South Africans, and it is understandable that they will be defensive of their jobs, workplaces and communities. Chasing out foreigners will not solve the unemployment problem, however. This is because there are not as many immigrants as people think there are. People just notice them more because they appear different from South Africans. Furthermore, ‘international migrants in South Africa have much lower unemployment rates than others. This is unusual. In most other countries, international migrants tend to have higher unemployment rates than locals’ (Wilkinson, 2015).

Why then has South Africa needed to call in its army to deal with xenophobic violence in recent years? Anthropologist Dr Zaheera Jinnah from the African Centre for Migration and Society says there is a disconnect between reality and perceptions about immigrants. A mere 4% of the working population is composed of immigrants. ‘A lot of what has been said and reproduced is based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence or myths,’ Dr Jinnah explained (quoted in Alfreds, 2017). The major reason for hostility against non-South Africans is thus found in the name ‘xenophobia’. It the fear or phobia, and not the reality, surrounding foreigners which leads to violence. Underlying anger is fear. Yet such fear may not be justifiable, especially when it degrades into brutality.

Immigration is a necessary and inevitable phenomenon. People have been migrating around throughout history and they will continue to do so in the future. South Africa has not closed its boarders to foreign labour, as well as to foreign students, despite nationwide outcry and violence against these individuals in recent years, because of the big picture factors. If South Africa tries to prevent all legal immigrations, it will isolate the country economically, especially from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), as well as from other nations. South Africa is a dominant SADC member, providing leadership and guidance, having considerable sway in decision making, and a valuable foothold in the region which we can’t afford to lose. Regional and international trade is a large source of employment, revenue and economic growth. Xenophobic discrimination and violence are not justified because we are members of international communities of cooperation and sharing. We cannot afford to alienate ourselves from the rest of Africa, but this happening, with nation such as Nigeria being enraged by the terrible treatment of their people in South Africa. We must never think we have nothing to gain from other nations such as Nigeria, or that it is no longer our duty to show kindness to strangers.   

Bilateral and multilateral country agreements are highly advantageous for South Africans, but xenophobia places these agreements at risk. These have to be relationships of give and take. We can’t send South Africans overseas to be educated, to work, trade, showcase their talents and projects, or to engage in cultural exchanges, and then return here with the fruits thereof, while denying all these to foreigners. There has been much concern over brain drain in South Africa, and our major means of combating this are brain exchange and brain circulation (see Nyarko, 2011; Fourie, 2006). The significant loss of skilled human capital is a reality. We need to replace these lost workers. While the government is pushing education as hard as possible, we have also lost educators and experts to train and mentor South Africans before they can replace lost the human capital. To make up the deficit, foreign expertise has been brought in, and should, ideally, be warmly welcomed as well. In the example of Oba at the beginning of this section on race and ethnicity, we can see how important he is in the context of scarce skills. Oba has superior expertise and he can find a job just about anywhere he wants to in the world. That his co-workers won’t listen to him, learn from him and are pushing him out of the organisation is their and our nation’s loss, not his.

It is easy to see how much we need experts like Oba from around the world to come and share with us their knowledge and help us work towards a better society. It is much harder to talk about that elephant in the room: the vast majority of non-South Africans living here are not as highly skilled as Oba and many are illegal immigrants. During his tenure as Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba described the situation in an enlightening way: ‘many of them [immigrants] don’t stay permanently in South Africa‚ they come and go out. Some of them stay permanently and commit crimes, but they are no different from South Africans who were born here‚ live here‚ commit crimes and also have malicious intentions to society in general.’ Gigaba said that most immigrants from Africa enter the country using legal, legitimate documents and they conduct transactions with South African businesses, thus supporting jobs in South Africa. The use of legal documents should ensure that immigrants are ‘just as safe as South Africans and also contribute to the diversity and social cohesion of the country’ (Gigaba, quoted in Goba, 2016).

There are many different types of legal and illegal immigrants in South Africa, and it is hardly fair to lump them together. There are many who contribute to the economy, the education system, and social change. There are some who have malicious intentions, but it is up to our police and state authorities to deal with this group. If citizens become involved, by means of what would be termed ‘vigilante’ or ‘mob justice’ in communities and in the workplace, we face numerous problems. The proper legal channels and processes, part of our precious democracy (which needs to be protected), are undermined and weakened. For example, undue interference in a case of crimes committed by an immigrant muddies the waters, making the investigation harder to conduct and control. If vigilantes take action, it will undermine the balance which officials work hard to maintain in the justice system, and it prevents the authorities from prosecuting criminals to the full extent of the law.

Xenophobic vigilantism is discrimination and, at best, it is a nuisance for law officials in trying to fulfil their duties, as well as an impediment to organisational and national progress. At worst, it is unjustifiable violence, victimisation and harassment of any non-South African with complete disregard for their real character or activities. It casts South Africans in a very poor light: as narrow-minded, selfish, prejudiced against our fellow Africans, and lacking an understanding of what it means to be citizens of the global village.

Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be addressed. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za |

Website: www.ichaftraining.co.za |  www.devan-moonsamy.com

Gender Violence in South Africa – Men, now is the time for us to ACT

Devan Moonsamy

Currently, in South Africa, men’s rights activists like those in the US are less common. On the other hand, recent activism by men in South Africa has tended to be out of concern for the plight of women and girls. Activist Siyabulela Jentile (quoted in Moatshe, 2017), who helped organise a men’s march against the abuse of women inPretoria in2017,stated:

We are aware of what is happening in the country. We were not going to fold our arms and do nothing while our women and girlfriends continue to be victimised daily… We are men who want to hold each other accountable. The fact that me and you don’t beat up our girlfriends or our wives doesn’t mean we should be excluded from a call for men to desist from abusing women. We will look at how we, as gents, can forge a way forward to stop abuse against women. We must get down there on the ground with the people. There are men who are afraid to speak up against abuse… The most important thing would be to get men to come through and listen to our message. We want to say to the guys that they can be better men by stopping the raping, killing and burning of women… Don’t make criminals to be comfortable in our midst.

The march included a coalition of individuals and men’s civil society groups. Jentile called for men to report abuse against women committed by other men, and thus not to protect abusers to the detriment of women and society in general (Moatshe, 2017). Fellow campaign organiser Kholofelo Masha (quoted in Davies, 2017) said that violence against women must urgently be challenged. Of situations such as JJ’s, whose story is given in the introduction, Masha says, ‘If we do nothing, we are saying we accept this culture.’ Even though JJ does not say he agrees with the violent culture Masha is referring to, his silence in front of a sexist is taken as consent for it. This can make contact with the person increasingly difficult. JJ did not nip the problem in the bud by letting Rob know that his highly sexist and criminal thoughts are rejected. Rob continues to cause a variety of problems for JJ and his colleagues, but it seems they are stuck with him, partly as a result of their own choices. It is surprising what people will put up with from dastards (that is, a dishonourable man) like Rob, and we really need to put a stop to it.

Kholofelo Masha continued, ‘People like Karabo [Mokoena] are murdered by close, intimate partners who they trusted with their lives… it cannot continue this way.’ Mokoena was murdered by her boyfriend, and it was not an isolated case, including the modus operandi of the murder. Researchers have pointed out that the incidence of such intimate partner femicides (murder of women and girls by someone close to them) is very high in South Africa compared to worldwide averages. It has been confirmed that at least half of murdered women die at the hands of their intimate partners (Makou, 2018). More research is needed to determine the extent of the problem, and some have pointed out that homicide rates are very high in the country in general (ibid). Data we have from research by the World Health Organization (quoted in Makou, 2018) shows that the femicide rate in South Africais several times higher than it is globally – up to five times higher. It is certain that violent acts against women and girls are exceptionally high in South Africa, which shows the way in which they are perceived by men around them. Their very lives simply do not seem to matter.

However, reactions to the murder and rape of the UCT student indicate that some men are fed up with the treatment of women in South Africa: This needs to be a more common type of reaction. It seems that some men care not at all for the consequences of their actions against women, children and the community; but there are many like Jentile, Masha and their fellows who see it as a grave offence against all of us.

This is important because men do know what discrimination feels like. Men may be discriminated against for being dark-skinned, for being ‘too young’ or ‘too old’, for their sexuality, body type, income, even simply for their height. They are victims of abuse, bullying and violence, including as children. Men are also not always well treated by their partners and families. We are all human, we mustn’t forget we have so much in common, and not reporting abuse on the basis of gender is illogical. Men and boys can thus identify with women and girls to a good extent, and vice versa, if we make the effort. Everyone has experienced discrimination, though it varies in intensity and frequency from person to person, and it is worse for women and girls, but men may not take this seriously. They may sweep it under the carpet until it becomes so bad that the damage is permanent or irreversible. Perhaps it is somewhat different elsewhere, such as in the US where men are worried about their rights, but in Africa, women and girls face a very complex, challenging and violent situation.

Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be addressed. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za |

Website: www.ichaftraining.co.za |  www.devan-moonsamy.com

Disturbing “Record-Breaking” Unemployment Levels – How We Can Be The Solution!

Devan Moonsamy

On the one hand, we have massive unemployment, on the other, we have a skills shortage. How can we balance these? The Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE) in South Africa explains how we should view the skills shortage in some detail in an article from some time ago. It is still relevant as so many problems have still not been addressed fully and gets to the heart of the unemployment and skills crises. The CDE says, “we are short of skills across the board, including people with the skills to create more jobs.”

This is very true, as I have found. At ICHAF, we don’t simply hire people and put them to work as trainers. We conduct “Train the trainer” initiatives, besides other related activities, so that trainers learn best practices, can do the admin tasks required, and don’t let students who need extra help down. This is critical to increasing the number of skilled workers in SA.

This is also true in another sense. We need job creators – entrepreneurs who create businesses and hire and train staff. Entrepreneurship is pretty daunting for some. It’s not easy for a youth to take on without the drive, skills, and especially the ability to take on the risks involved. Entrepreneurial training helps a lot, as well as experience gathered in the relevant field.

Thus, we also need to realise that, if we have the aptitude for it and can take on the responsibilities and risk that come with a new venture, we should spread our wings and fly. If we have had some good training and experience (including learning some hard lessons too) pretty soon, we will find we can make a livable income running our own business and hopefully offer employment to others too.

Youth entrepreneurs exist, and that’s great, but it is also great when older people upskill themselves, engage in workplace learning, and start to run businesses drawing on their experience, knowledge and maturity. People at all levels and in all fields can be trained, and I have heard time and again managers of recently trained staff say “I can see a difference in their work!”

This makes the manager’s role easier and gives the staff member much more confidence and the ability to meet customer’s needs in a more professional way. We know how frustrating it is to work with someone who, even through no fault of their own, just doesn’t know how to do their job.

Companies that don’t train their staff end up forcing the customer to do so! Or they take their business elsewhere! Companies with good staff get customers in the door and repeat business, which fuels the economy and uplifts people’s livelihoods.

If a company is willing to get their employees into learnerships, or even for short-term intensive interventions, we can fix another problem identified by CDE: “many young people are unemployed because the education system has failed to provide them with the literacy, numeracy, and life skills they need to meet employers’ requirements.” This is so true!

And we mustn’t forget that we are still living with the legacy of apartheid. Thus, older staff members also deserve to be trained, and from experience I have seen that it is not correct that older people struggle to learn. Initially, they may feel overwhelmed and think they won’t manage, but very quickly they get into the swing of things, and they do just as well as the youths. Older people also can tend to take their studies more seriously.

Their maturity is also extremely valuable. In some cases, people prefer to deal with an older individual when their needs are quite specialised. For example, parents will tend to be happier dealing with a school principal who was a good teacher for a number of years and knows a lot about school administration too. A school principal needs quite a lot of training and experience, and that can only come with time. This is not discrimination against anyone; it just means that the education system works better. Beating unemployment means training every one of all ages and all employment levels.

It is true that as businesses grow they tend to diversify their offerings and need more staff with different skills for a variety of roles. Big businesses also seem to have the time and budget to dedicate to training. Small businesses thus tend to neglect training.

It doesn’t pay to cut corners, however, and if a small business wants to grow or even just to tick over, they must take into consideration that client expectations are increasing as other companies start to offer better deals with better-trained staff. SA is becoming increasingly competitive, often with several companies vying for tenders and customers’ money. You have to stay ahead of the game, and the best way to do that is to have a capable team on your side.

Why not start just one or a few staff members you think have potential on a learnership? Investigate the process – and the awesome tax rebate you will get which makes it practically free – and contact a reputable training company that can upskill your staff member with the exact skills they need. You won’t regret it.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, learnerships and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za | info@ichaftraining.co.za

Website: www.ichaftraining.co.za |  www.devan-moonsamy.com