Post Office: New boss, new hope

2014-11-23 17:00

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Simo Lushaba has taken the helm at a broken Post Office. He spoke to Mamello Masote about the massive task he has ahead of him

Simo Lushaba has been brought in by the department of telecommunications and postal services to stabilise the SA Post Office.

His first task will be to appoint an “intervention” team. The Post Office, apart from being completely dysfunctional due to an ongoing strike that has lasted four months, runs at a huge loss, has no board, and has major issues around corruption and wasteful expenditure.

He spoke to City Press about his first two weeks at work, as well as his priorities:

Why did you take this job?

It is a national imperative that we turn the SA Post Office into a well-functioning organisation.

A South Africa that cannot successfully run a postal service for itself, in my view, cannot raise its hand to play a leading role in the Southern African Development Community, Africa, Brics, G20 and indeed the world.

I saw an opportunity to contribute to the lives of all South Africans who need the services of the Post Office.

What are the first three things you are doing right now to address some of the biggest issues?

Firstly, to end the strike that has disrupted services and destroyed trust and confidence of our customers.

Secondly, to motivate all our people to commit to work with us to successfully intervene and rebuild a sustainable Post Office. On our own as the intervention team, we will not succeed.

Lastly, once I am assured of the full backing and commitment of our people, to assure all our customers, suppliers and stakeholders that are hugely affected by the strike that we are committed to ratifying the disruptions and putting the Post Office on a trajectory where it can provide reliable services beyond the strike.

How important do you think the Post Office is to the fabric of society, particularly now with technology and other companies coming in to fill the gap?

The national outcry from our customers who are affected by the strike clearly demonstrates the need for a reliable Post Office. We cannot ignore that and say ‘go find other solutions’ to those who still need the services of the Post Office.

What is your plan to stop the rot at the Post Office?

We are reviewing all activities of the Post Office. The aim is to achieve:

»?An organisation of people who are dedicated to build and sustain a reliable Post Office that is not susceptible to sporadic and ongoing disruptions;

»?Build a Post Office that can sustain itself free of corruption and disruptions;

»?Build a Post Office that generates positive cash flows and operates profitably;

»?Improve the Post Office’s ability to adapt to the operating environment; and

»?Build the trust and confidence of our customers and public.

Are you working without a board?

Yes. The board offered to resign to give the administrator an opportunity to intervene. I will have a team of experts that I work with, and because we will all spend considerably more time in the Post Office than boards can, I think we should soon have a much deeper understanding of where the organisation is and what needs to be done to get it back in shape.

Based on the work of the administrator and the intervention team, [Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele] will determine when is it appropriate to appoint the board.

Will the strike end soon?

I am confident we will soon be able to end the strike.

How will you restore public and business confidence – do you think trust in the Post Office can be restored?

It is a mammoth task! I have no doubt that the history of strikes has destroyed trust and confidence of the public and customers.

We have to prove?...?that we can still be relied upon. We have to commit to addressing our internal issues in a manner that does not negatively affect our customers.

We should stop disrupting our own services in the process of dealing with our own issues.

It will take time to restore confidence but I’m sure that if we develop a culture of providing services to delight our customers and refrain from sporadic

and endless disruptions, over time, confidence will slowly build.

How concerned are you about the number of businesses that have been ruined by the strike?

We are very concerned with the effect the strike continues to have on all our customers.

We are working very hard and talking to leaders of organised labour to end the strike.

We are talking to customers and trying to assure them that our services will soon be back to normal. We have to restore normality without any further delay.

What can you say to people who have parcels stuck at the Post Office distribution centre, or to students who have not received study material?

Firstly, I would like to apologise to all who have been affected by the strike. We are doing everything in our power to end it.

It is now a matter of days and not weeks.

Moving their parcels that got stuck in our system is our top priority. We were first told that it will take three months to clear the backlog, and we said it had to be faster than that.

We improved that plan to a third of that time and continue to seek better ways to deal with it even faster than that.

Who is he?

Simo Lushaba is the managing director of Talent Growth Partners, where he is an executive coach and consults on strategy development, corporate governance and performance management.

He previously worked for Transnet as general manager of rail operations, and at Rand Water as chief executive. He is a nonexecutive director of Harmony Gold and Cashbuild.

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