Stellenbosch University
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Milestone for HR practitioner despite personal challenges
Author: E Els
Published: 02/11/2023

​​​​​Phumla Banjwa, the Faculty of Education, Law and Theology's Human Resources Practitioner, obtained her Master's Degree in Industrial Psychology on 25 October 2023. Her love for human resources (HR) comes from a young age and despite many challenges, she continued with her studies to reach this milestone.


Banjwa's career started about 20 years ago when she joined South African National Defense Force  doing basic HR-related work. Thereafter she worked at the South African Post Office as a Human Resources Consultant and at the same time started studying for her National Diploma in Human Resources at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). A B.Tech Degree in Human Resources followed at University of South Africa (UNISA). She then joined Momentum Metropolitan Holding Limited (MMI) as a Human Resources Consultant and realised that HR was moving towards industrial psychology. She took on a year  bridging course  in industrial psychology at UNISA and in 2018 she started working at Stellenbosch University as a Human Resources Practitioner. Her personal goal was to improve academically while working at SU and she then obtained her Honour's Degree in Industrial Psychology followed by her Master's Degree in Industrial Psychology at UNISA which she obtained on 25 October 2023. The title of her study was 'Contextual factors influencing Higher Education Academics' wellbeing and adjustment during organizational system and process changes.'

“My love for HR is not ending anytime soon and it is best that if you are doing something you love, that you keep abreast of what is really happening."


Banjwa had to face a very challenging personal situation while doing her master's and considered whether she should continue with her studies. In that time, she found hope in the book of Psalms 23 for restoration gave her strength  to continue with her studies. The challenges she went through now enable her to help her clients with similar problems in a much better way.

“What I love best about my job is bringing some hope to my clients. They sometimes have many challenges, and my role is then to coach them through those challenges." She has a passion for people and likes giving guidance and advice. Values and principles are very important to her and it is her mother who inspired her to be who she is today. “My mom is a very brave, strong, resilient and calm woman , knowing her self-worth despite her circumstances ." She added that it is important to remember that life really is not all about yourself, and you must make sure that whatever space you are in, you leave with its own integrity. The principle of Charlotte Maxeke to engage with people in your community and make sure they move to a better space is a value she embraces. Banjwa also looked up to Nelson Mandela and the fact that he knew his self-worth and brought hope to many.

Her advice to young HR practitioners is that the best way to deal with people is to remain objective and not jump to any conclusions. “When you are sitting with a client, listen to what the client is saying, most answers will come from the client."

A poem that Banjwa's line manager Ms Carmen Paynter shared with her some time ago made her realise that indeed nothing good can come from feeling small.

'Our deepest fear' by Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves,

“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"

Actually, who are you not to be. You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There's nothing enlightened about shrinking

so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God

that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

give other people permission to do the same.

As we're liberated from our own fear,

our presence automatically liberates others.


Hambu hambe ntombazana siyazidla ngawe qhawekazi.