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
‘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.”