Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba on unlocking the resilience of the human spirit

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Netcare’s Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba shares how being a self-funded student taught him about vision, passion, dedication, discipline and humility.

Hard work, passion, resilience and dedication are life adjectives that Dr Nceba Ndzwayiba, group director human resources and transformation at Netcare, easily resonates with.

Affectionately known by his clan name Dwala within his close circle, Nceba says his journey to becoming a prominent figure in HR has been defined by being a steadfast human.

Raised in a family where university fees were a financial burden, Nceba took it upon himself to self-fund his tertiary studies, paving the way for a career filled with passion, dedication and humility.

“Post-matric, I spent a significant part of my life working to self-fund my tertiary studies, as my parents couldn’t afford university fees,” he says. “So, I have mastered the art of being an employee by day and a student by night, from undergraduate right through to PhD level: a journey that has taught me a lot about vision, passion, dedication, discipline and humility.”

While his initial career aspirations leaned towards psychology, or tourism and hospitality, Nceba found himself drawn to HR, viewing it as a calling perfectly aligned with his innate desire to understand and improve the human experience in the workplace and society at large. His early experiences in the hospitality industry, particularly at St Mary’s Hospital in Umtata, ignited his passion for transforming workplaces into environments conducive to learning and growth.

“My first real job after matric and a short stint as a trainee chef, was in a hospital kitchen at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Phoenix, Durban. I later moved to St Mary’s Hospital in Umtata as a trainee catering manager before becoming an assistant catering manager at a hospital in Mdantsane, East London,” he recalls.

“It was at St Mary’s, in particular, that I was increasingly troubled by the fact that I was about to transcend into a management role as a young, ‘inexperienced’ man, to lead staff who were mostly female and much older than me, and had dedicated their entire lives to the company, but still occupied the same job roles as chefs, cooks, cleaners and food service assistants, with no substantial change in their income and career growth. It troubled me deeply to witness dedicated employees stagnating in their roles with no tangible career progression,’ Nceba recalls.

This realisation propelled him to shift gears and pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies in human resource development, laying the foundation for a fulfilling career dedicated to unlocking individual, societal and organisational potential.

Throughout his 15-year career, Nceba has held various roles within the HR landscape, from driving learnerships in the tourism and hospitality sector, to spearheading talent development initiatives in corporate environments such as Airports South Africa and Netcare. His expertise lies in identifying, nurturing and leveraging talent to drive organisational excellence and growth.

“At the heart of my passion is the belief that unlocking human potential is key to fostering societal and organisational progress. Working in healthcare, I am amazed by the depth of passion and selflessness of each and everyone of the healthcare workers and leaders in our business. Everybody cares about the health and wellbeing of humanity in society.”

His approach to HR revolves around understanding the intersection of business objectives, societal dynamics and individual aspirations, driving the design and implementation of inclusive solutions that address diverse needs.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nceba remains steadfast in his commitment to leading transformative HR strategies. “The pandemic thrust us into uncharted territory, resembling a war zone,” he reflects. “But it taught me the importance of collaboration and compassionate leadership in navigating crises.”

Looking ahead, Nceba emphasises the imperative for HR professionals to address pressing issues such as employee wellbeing, diversity, equity and inclusion, against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions and economic uncertainty. He advocates for bold initiatives that drive meaningful change, urging HR to rethink traditional models and embrace innovation.

For aspiring HR professionals, Nceba offers sage advice: “If you’e passionate about people and business solutions, HR is for you. It’s not just about paperwork, it’s about shaping the future of work and society.”

Beyond his professional endeavours, Nceba finds inspiration in his family and loved ones, cherishing the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Whether in the kitchen, tending to his garden, or exploring the pages of a book, he finds solace in activities that nourish his mind, body, and soul.

As he reflects on his legacy, Nceba hopes to be remembered as a catalyst for change – a leader who challenged the status quo and championed equality and justice in the workplace.

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