Saluting 30 years of service to UNICEF Zimbabwe-Ernest Ndhlangisa

Embarking on a journey that changed his life

Elizabeth Mupfumira - UNICEF
Ernest Ndhlangisa
10 December 2021

When Ernest Ndhlangisa first walked into the UNICEF offices on November 1, 1991, little did he realise that he was about to embark on a journey that would change his life.

“Before I joined UNICEF, I worked for a Freight company in Harare, and was looking for a new and exciting opportunity,” he said. “ I answered to the advert in the paper for a Driver at UNICEF and thought I would probably not qualify to work for such a big organization”

When his application was successful, he joined a small pool of eight Drivers at the time, and his journey at UNICEF began.

Ernest is the longest serving staff member in the UNICEF Zimbabwe office having worked for 30 years. During this time he has seen the best and the worst times with the organization, and is brimming with memorable anecdotes.

“My first time outside of Zimbabwe came during an assignment with UNICEF in 1992 to Zambia, where I travelled with the HIV team for the “HIV in schools” programme. For two weeks we travelled all over the country from Lusaka, to Kitwe to Livingstone,” he says. “For someone who had never been outside of his home country, this is a memory that sticks in my head.”

On the other hand he recalls a more harrowing experience of when Zimbabwe was gripped with a cholera outbreak that claimed more than 4000 lives in 2007/8. UNICEF was at the forefront of providing medical supplies and trucking water to the most affected communities during this time. Ernest remembers vividly having a close call with the disease during one of his missions.

“I had travelled to Beitbridge with a colleague from the health section to monitor and assist with the relief efforts as the border town was one of the hardest hit areas in the country. After several days in the field, I began to feel unwell on the way back to base. I feared I had contracted the disease. I was quickly rushed to a hospital in Bulawayo, but luckily recuperated,” he recalls.

In between these experiences, Ernest has had a front row seat to many situations faced by Zimbabweans including the 2019 Cyclones Idai and Elin; the 2017 Tsholotsho Floods; the Tokwe-Mukosi disaster; the hyper-inflation period of 2009; and measles outbreak of 2009. In all these he has played a pivotal role as a Senior Driver for the organization.

UNICEF drivers provide a critical service to the organization, ensuring that staff members, supplies and provisions are transported safely and timeously to the most vulnerable members of society especially during times of humanitarian crises. Covering the length and breadth of the country, they are the cornerstone of the work of UNICEF in Zimbabwe.

“When I wear my UNICEF T-shirt I am filled with a great sense of pride and responsibility. Working for UNICEF has given my life a great sense of purpose and I feel honoured to be part of this great team,” he says. “I have spent a large part of my life in this organization, and it truly feels like my family.”