The South African Post Office (SAPO) is adamant that despite declining volumes, it still remains competitive and relevant in the face of new technologies. “The post office is still relevant, particularly when you look at the disadvantaged people. They don’t have internet and so on and therefore they still use the post office as a medium of communication,” says Sekano Abel Kgalanyane, senior manager for mail processing in the central region. He is responsible for the mail processing part of mail business in the central region which comprises the Free State, Northern Cape and North West provinces.
Kgalanyane spoke to Bloemfontein Courant as part of a visit to SAPO’s Bloemfontein branch that was not affected during the recent workers’ strike that saw over 500 workers, mainly from Gauteng, sacked for striking illegally. He says despite the “general feeling” about dropping volumes the post office is still excited because the parcels are increasing, with mainly bulk mailers still using the post office from which SAPO generates most of its income. Speaking from his office in the city centre, Kgalanyane says the SAPO is also mindful of its mandate with regard to South Africa’s unemployment problem, which explains the 150 Bloemfontein staff complement; more than half of whom are casual staff used when and as needed.
The Bloemfontein office processes about 500 000 items a day, with 1.2 million items processed daily across the central region.
Despite pressure from new technologies, Kgalanyane maintains that the SAPO feels that letters still have a role to play in this era.
“It’s not like we’re just sitting and not moving with technology. On a continual basis, we’re looking at how we can develop our systems. For example, we’re very concerned about the environment, that’s why we’re testing a scooter that does not use petrol (but electricity), and we’re also in the process of testing other machines that will fast-track the (letter sorting) process,” he says.
Other exciting developments in Bloemfontein include plans to relocate the SAPO mail processing division where both manual and mechanised sorting is currently taking place. “We intend to have the machines in Bloemfontein, but that will take a bit of time because our intention is to relocate our operations from where we are to an area where everything will be on the same floor. So, as soon as we’ve done that we’ll be introducing machines. It is, however, also important that we continue with the manual sorting to support the government in terms of employment creation,” he says.
Good news for job seekers is that the SAPO is putting together a database for unemployed people in an endeavour to employ more casuals following the phasing out of labour brokers. “What we are trying to do is to create our own database. Very soon there’ll be adverts inviting people to send their CVs so that we can then create the database. When we need people in the future we can just go to the database, select them and use them,” says Kgalanyane.