CAP­TAIN of SA’s postal ser­vice

Lindiwe Kwele was re­cently ap­pointed as the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the SA Post Of­fice – a chal­lenge she’s ac­cepted with the verve and en­ergy she in­vested in her pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions in city man­age­ment in Dur­ban, Tsh­wane and Joburg, writes Sue

CityPress - - Business -

‘Ibe­lieve the huge ship that is the SA Post Of­fice is be­gin­ning to turn around – we are go­ing to make it work,” says a con­fi­dent Lindiwe Kwele. She has taken on one of the most de­mand­ing jobs in the coun­try. It’s her job to en­sure the vi­sion of an ef­fi­ciently op­er­at­ing Post Of­fice be­comes a re­al­ity.

“It’s a bril­liant space to oc­cupy if ev­ery­one buys into it,” she says.

In the short time Kwele has been in the po­si­tion, she has placed cus­tomers at the cen­tre of all she does.

“We need to win their trust so they be­come our am­bas­sadors.”

She knows she’s sit­ting in a hot seat as com­pe­ti­tion mush­rooms, specif­i­cally with courier ser­vices, the in­ter­net and other postal ser­vices.

“But we oc­cupy ex­cel­lent re­tail space in cities and towns across the coun­try. If the Post Bank ma­te­ri­alises in the man­ner we en­vis­age, this will be a re­ally ex­cit­ing space in which to work.” Kwele’s phone doesn’t stop ring­ing and she has peo­ple lin­ing up out­side her door to see her. She men­tions that the SA Post Of­fice is part of the Uni­ver­sal Postal Union, a spe­cialised UN agency for the sec­tor.

“It was here re­cently to do a di­ag­nos­tic on the state of our readi­ness for e-com­merce,” Kwele says.

She’s aware of other African coun­tries set­ting them­selves up to be e-com­merce hubs on the con­ti­nent, so South Africa can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent.

“We have to up our game or we’ll be over­taken.”

Kwele was deputy city man­ager of Tsh­wane be­fore she joined the Post Of­fice as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Her ex­pe­ri­ence in lead­ing and di­rect­ing the strat­egy devel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion clus­ter of Tsh­wane is ex­pected to be vi­tal in help­ing her make the paras­tatal more ef­fi­cient.

She was in­volved, in­ter alia, in in­nercity re­gen­er­a­tion and up­grad­ing pro­grammes in town­ships.

Kwele has spent much of her work­ing life in South Africa’s ma­jor cities, help­ing them to grow.

When she left school, she planned to study medicine, but soon re­alised her pas­sion lay else­where.

She was in­ter­ested in eco­nomics and fi­nance, and wanted to work in the pub­lic ser­vice sec­tor and com­pleted a B Ad­min de­gree at the Univer­sity of Dur­ban-Westville.

She ma­jored in pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion, eco­nomics and industrial psy­chol­ogy.

Sub­se­quently, she ob­tained an MBA from the Univer­sity of Wales.

Her first job was data and case man­age­ment and re­search for the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion (TRC).

“I’m glad I did that – for it taught me, as a young per­son, to be grate­ful for what I had. Go­ing through the TRC files and see­ing grue­some pic­tures, I un­der­stood what many peo­ple had to sac­ri­fice for our coun­try,” she says.

“It helped me to build my emo­tional in­tel­li­gence – a life skill you can­not buy. To­day, I take noth­ing for granted.”

Later, she be­came head of the eThek­wini business sup­port unit.

Kwele grew up in KwaDukuza (for­merly Stanger) and went to the Sa­cred Heart High School in Veru­lam.

In 2005, she be­came CEO of Dur­ban Africa, mar­ket­ing the city as a leisure, business and events des­ti­na­tion. Af­ter that, she be­came CEO of Jo­han­nes­burg Tourism and, in 2012, was ap­pointed as Tsh­wane deputy city man­ager.

Her mother is still a nurse at Stanger Hos­pi­tal. Her fa­ther worked for Old Mu­tual.

“They al­ways told me that I mat­ter and that I’m here for a rea­son. The af­fir­ma­tion from my par­ents has made me feel rich be­yond mea­sure – which I say with the great­est hu­mil­ity – and it has given me tremen­dous con­fi­dence.”

This will help al­le­vi­ate the de­mands and pres­sure on Kwele as she and SA Post Of­fice CEO Mark Barnes try to steer the ship into prof­itable and calmer wa­ters.

She does man­age to re­lax, she says with a chuckle, by read­ing books with her three chil­dren.

“Also, I love golf and try to play as of­ten as I can.”

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