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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: |

Website: |

Training in SA Pays For Itself: The Tax Benefits of Accredited Staff Training

By Devan Moonsamy

Whether your company is big or small, it is in line for tax benefits between R40 000 and R120 000 per learner completing an accredited course!

The value in training staff through learnerships, internships and skills programmes accredited companies benefits your company financially in several ways. Well-trained staff are far better equipped to meet client and internal company needs. It also brings about personal growth and social and economic growth and upliftment. However, if you are concerned about the costs involved, both the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) relevant to your industry have structured financial benefits for companies that train their staff through accredited providers.

The Income Tax Act provides employers with a tax allowance when they enter into qualifying registered learnership agreements with their employees to encourage skills development and job creation. The allowance is an incentive paid by SARS to employers that train employees according to the requirements of the relevant SETA. Those in the training field are aware of the desperate need for training in South Africa, and the government is also serious about promoting this. Thus companies are in line for these excellent benefits, but few take advantage of them.

Companies can receive both an annual allowance for each year a learner is under a registered learnership agreement, and a completion allowance as a once-off payment upon the employee’s successful completion of their studies. Curious to know just how much this amounts to? You will be surprised!

For a learner without a disability, the annual tax allowance is between R20 000 and R40 000, depending on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level at which the student is studying. As for the completion allowance, it is the same amount! Thus, a learner registered for and completing a year-long learnership through an accredited training provider can lead to a R40 000 to R80 000 tax benefit for the company in addition to their increased expertise and skills competencies.

Should the learner have a disability, the benefits are more than double!  The annual allowance is R50 000 to R60 000, depending on the NQF level. Again the completion allowance is also R50 000 to R60 000. Employing and training a person with a disability is thus a major advantage to a company. Accredited training leads to a R100 000 to R120 000 tax benefit for a single year-long learnership in these cases.

This means that learnerships end up paying for themselves and cost the company far less than most assume. The main outlay is merely stationery and computer access. Learners do need time to attend training sessions, and possibly a short period of leave to study for their final test, if this is required for their qualification. This small investment will see exponential results, as I have witnessed time and again with our learners at ICHAF. A wonderful example of this is where employees I worked with started out as cleaners and drivers and grew through training into admin and management positions. Employees in such cases feel valued and enjoy their work. They remain engaged in the workplace and loyal to their employer over many years of their career.

Many employers shy away from training as they think it is too costly. They may also think that only large companies that pay the Skills Development Levy are eligible for benefits. This is not true. An employer exempt from the payment of the levy under the Skills Development Levies Act qualifies for a learnership allowance if all other the requirements are met. For example, the training provider must be accredited, and the learner, employer and training provider must together sign a learnership agreement and ensure it is adhered to.

To reap the benefits of staff training that pays for itself, ensure that your company meets the SARS and SETA requirements. Refer to the SARS “Guide on the Tax Incentive for Learnership Agreements” for detailed information. Claims are made using the SARS IT180 IB180 form, “Declaration by employer for the purpose of claiming a deduction for an allowance in respect of a learnership agreement or contract of apprenticeship.”

There are 21 industry-specific SETAs covering everything from agriculture (AGRISETA) to wholesale and retail businesses (W&RSETA). If your company is involved in construction, for example, then you simply need to find out the training requirements of the Construction SETA, which is called CETA. The relevant SETA will provide information on what courses are approved and which companies are accredited to provide them.

One of the most effective introductory courses suitable for most learners is the General Education and Training Certificate in Business Practices (NQF1) administered by the Services SETA. It is a year-long course and, thereafter, the student can progress to more advanced studies and eventually specialise in a certain field. This is but one qualification available from training providers such as ICHAF which is approved for the excellent tax benefits described above.

Devan Moonsamy featured in the 2019 April edition of Premiere Magazine

Devan Moonsamy is honoured to be the feature article in the 2019 April edition of Premiere Magazine

NZ Mosque Massacre, Racism, and Prejudice – We Are All Victims, We Are All Guilty

By Devan Moonsamy

Brenton Tarrant attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, just a few days ago, murdering 49 people. He filmed it, he is proud of it, and we know he is a white supremacist from the disturbing manifesto he posted online just before the attack.

Wajahat Ali of the New York Times places the blame for the Christchurch Massacre on non-Muslims’ shoulders. He writes just two days after the attack, ‘All those who have helped to spread the worldwide myth that Muslims are a threat have blood on their hands.’ But does playing the victim in this way help? Both sides – all sides, in fact, because the issues are far from cut and dry – are to blame and not to blame.

People are terrified of terrorism – that is the goal it continues to achieve. People voice concern about it from their point of view, and that is understandable, especially considering that we are all at the mercy of news media reporting and sensationalism. We all fall prey to fake news and shock tactics from time to time. Our humanity demands that we feel angered and condemn the work of such criminals. Stopping ourselves from spreading the kind of ‘myths’ Wajahat Ali warns about it not an easy thing to do when we are confronted by the horrors of terrorism. Awareness of what is happening to us is critical. We have to talk about what we are doing to add to the problem without realising it.

We are easy prey to fear. In South Africa, white people fear-monger among themselves about the threat of genocide. People roll their eyes. Don’t be silly, it will never happen. Yet BLF’s president Andile Mngxitama recently urged supporters to kill white people (and their pets too). This is madness; it is hate speech. So who is justified? How do we simply ignore the BLF’s sinister agenda, and acknowledge the frustration of black people who have long been excluded from the wealth of the nation? We have to respond to both.

Wajahat Ali calls white nationalism ‘white ISIS’. He further says, ‘Thoughts and prayers are not enough. These attacks are the latest manifestation of a growing and globalized ideology of white nationalism that must be addressed at its source — which includes the mainstream politicians and media personalities who nurture, promote and excuse it.’

This is a finger pointed at Trump, among others. From the beginning, Trump wouldn’t reject the many white supremacists who supported his presidential campaign. That is tantamount to agreeing with their agenda. Suspicions about him have proved true, according to proof put forward by Ali. But is this because Trump fears for the safety of the western world, in which he is justified, considering the agenda of some terrorists? Or is he simply a white supremacist? There are no easy answers; it seems both are true.

Considering the broader Muslim community, there are many factors to take into account. To begin with, did you know that Muslim-dominated nations have a significantly lower level of murders compared to non-Muslim populations? And that fewer Muslims in the US believe violence is a solution to any problem compared to other demographic groups?

So why has there been almost 300 Islamist terrorist attacks worldwide over the past four decades (including those in more than 10 different African nations)? The reason is that the attacks are by extremists, and they are not true Muslims. They do not follow the path laid down for them by Mohammed and their forbearers as the way to serve Allah.

Simply put, they are criminals, and we cannot equate them with the rest of the Muslim world. Likewise, we cannot equate Andile Mngxitama with black people in general, nor Brenton Tarrant with white people in general. These people are not the model that the vast majority identify or agree with.

What can we do to resist such people and their evil agenda? Firstly, we have to stand together united as humans, not divided by our demographics. We cannot place blame on an entire group and fear monger about them. Terrorists seek to divide us; they are very good at it. But we must pull together and do more than just ‘thoughts and prayers.’ Secondly, however justified we may feel at the time, we have to stop spreading myths about one another, such as that Muslim people condone terrorism. And finally, we have to use our vote in the upcoming South African election very wisely, refusing to support anyone who uses fear mongering to control and divide us.

Devan Moonsamy 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: | Website: |

Cross-cultural Competence in South Africa

By Devan Moonsamy

Cross-cultural competence involves the knowledge, skills, and motivation to adapt to diverse interactions. It is a major way in which we can contribute to intercultural cooperation. Some aspects of our behaviour are critical in terms of the values of a culture. However, certain key abilities and attitudes enable us to adapt to any culture effectively.

Cross-cultural competency is among the most important skills for the future workforce, according to the Institute for the Future, a global research body based in California. Tim Rettig, author on interpersonal struggle and success, explains, ‘Research has long shown that diversity of thought increases creativity and, with it, the innovation potential of both teams and corporations.’

In future and now, organisations are compelled to work more with people and partners from faraway places. This does not mean emailing and Skyping with them. No, they are right there in the office with us on a daily basis. Sometimes we are the cultural outsider, and we need to adapt while trying not to be too sensitive to what would be inappropriate back home. We need to be able to explain our views as well, allowing others to understand our needs better.

Benign terms?

Conflict will happen in cross-cultural encounters. In itself, it may not be such a major problem, provided it leads to mutual understanding. As an example of how cross-cultural competency doesn’t happen, consider the following: An overseas client visits the workplace. They know little about SA. In chatting with a company employee, they hear that their accent is distinct, and ask, ‘Are you a Boer?’

The employee is indeed Afrikaans, but they find the term Boer offensive. Some Afrikaans people do not mind the term, but others feel that it has been used in a derogatory way. The employee becomes angry and says, ‘You can’t speak to me like that!’ The visitor is taken aback and feels insulted and confused.

In such a case where the person knows little about our complex history, and even in cases where a South African uses a term such as Boer, is it necessary to become angry and retaliate? The person may think that the term is an acknowledgement of a proud heritage, for example, as in the case of terms such as African American as used by some in the US.

Not everyone knows that the term has become offensive to some Afrikaans people because it has been used in slogans and songs such as ‘Kill the Boer’, as started in 1993 by Peter Mokaba, president of the ANC Youth League at the time. Indeed, if we are not involved in such behaviour and threats, we may not know of their existence.

Terms such as jeez, girly or my girl, monkey, umlungu and Dutchman can be offensive, depending on the circumstances in which they are used. Avoiding the use of slang and colloquial language in the workplace is thus a safe option. We also want to avoid being overly familiar with our colleagues, especially if we don’t know them well. We don’t know how some words can hurt others, even if they have no negative meaning to us.

We should thus show cultural competency by confining our conversation to terms that are neutral and commonly accepted as referring to specific objects and ideas relevant to the working environment. We should avoid ambiguous or potentially controversial topics. It is also advisable to avoid terms which we are not familiar with.

Conflict transformation can still be achieved in problem cases if employees are willing to learn, listen and reconcile. Team members need time to reflect on each other’s’ different points of view, and ultimately find a way to create synergy and a novel solution to a problem.

Ways to achieve cross-cultural competency

Tim Rettig says that problems can be curbed when team members display cross-cultural competency. He suggests a number of ways, and some are stated below.

  • Placing oneself in the position of the other person and striving to see from their perspective.
  • Understanding the different values, beliefs and assumptions of the other side.
  • Listening carefully from a neutral stance with a view to gaining a deep understanding of the person’s culture and personal beliefs.
  • Communicating one’s point of view effectively but kindly to the other side.
  • Working towards integration of the different perspectives in order to create a new solution to the problem.
  • Resolving conflicts in a productive way as opposed to allowing negative emotional reactions to overtake a situation and set a precedent for future interaction.

People behaving strangely

One final word to be said on this topic of cultural understanding comes from psychology. Sometimes people say and do strange or offensive things, and we think, ‘That’s odd,’ or ‘I never expected that from them.’ We may also become angry at them for this.

But at times people are so worried about not doing the wrong thing that they become preoccupied with it. This is often accompanied by intense fear. They keep thinking about this bad thing they shouldn’t do to the point where, especially when they are stressed or on ‘autopilot’ and simply trying to cope in a difficult time, they end up doing the exact thing they didn’t want to.

We jump to take offence, not realising that, for that moment in which they fell short, there were hundreds of other times when they did the right thing and mastered their prejudices and fears.

It is thus important to consider whether a person has shown a pattern of discriminatory behaviour towards other cultures, genders, races etc. Or have they not rather made a mistake which should be forgiven? No one can say they are perfectly unbiased and perfectly behaved. If there is a pattern of behaviour, however, combined with an unapologetic attitude, then the person certainly deserves discipline.

If we are looking at an isolated case, and the person shows genuine remorse, it can be an excellent opportunity to implement conflict transformation and teach cross-cultural competency. We thereby build more closely-knit cooperative teams who better understand one another, have increased respect for one another, and have learnt to weather storms together and come out united.