Building a future, one letter at a time

2016-02-12 12:30
Priscilla Njamele waits for letters from the postal delivery truck. (GroundUp)

Priscilla Njamele waits for letters from the postal delivery truck. (GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Priscilla Njamele spends her days walking from the foot of Signal Hill all the way through Vredehoek and down to the Company’s Garden, delivering mail. She loves her job, which keeps her fit, she says.

Njamele, who lives in Mfuleni, started work as a cleaner at the Retreat branch of the South African Post Office in 1999, after she matriculated from Thandokhulu High School in Mowbray.

In 2003, she was transferred to work at the central Cape Town branch and promoted from cleaning to postal delivery. At the time, the job was dominated by men.

“For many years I would get strange comments from the public,” she says. “They would say stuff like, since when do we have a post lady around?”

She starts work at 7:00 and finishes around 15:00.

She spends a couple of hours sorting the letters according to street name and house number and then sets off to deliver the mail.

Her routes take her from the city centre through the Bo-Kaap, Tamboerskloof, Oranjezicht and Vredehoek.

“We don’t use bicycles … We were advised it can be too dangerous because of the traffic in the CBD, so I walk when doing my job … It keeps me fit and healthy.”

“Sometimes I finish early, depending on the volume of letters  … I deliver about 40 to 60 letters a day if it is low volume - that’s during the start of each month. Then, during the month end, I deliver 300 to 400 letters a day.”


Priscilla Njamele (GroundUp)

Rain or shine, she is out on the street. "For me it is the same. I do not mind the weather as long as I can still do my job.”

She says she likes the areas she works in because unlike the townships, the dogs are locked in and she can walk freely.

"I love this job. I get to set my own deadline, I work alone and I don't get pressure from anyone. I love that am not sitting in one place.  I move around and I have conversations with the domestic workers and make new friends."


Priscilla Njamele (GroundUp)

The hard part though is to do the work of former colleagues who have left the Post Office. “I feel they could at least hire more permanent staff.”

She says her R9 600 a month salary is decent and helps her take care of her three children, aged 3, 4 and 16 respectively.


Priscilla Njamele (GroundUp)

Does she use the Post Office herself? Yes, she says: she often sends parcels home to Middledrift in the Eastern Cape, where she comes from.

"I send things home, especially during the holidays if I am unable to go visit. It is easier for me because I know how it works."

Asked if she has other career plans, she says: “I love my job. I don't want to go anywhere. I have raised my children with the money I get from this job. I feel I’m too old to be changing jobs. This is it.”


Priscilla Njamele and her children, Asanda and Sithenkosi (GroundUp)


Priscilla Njamele and her children, Asanda and Sithenkosi (GroundUp)

- See GroundUp for the full story.

Read more on:    cape town

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