At a time when telecommunications liberalisation has unsettled many companies, the recently appointed Director General of BotswanaPost sees the development as a two pointed sword.
Gone are the days when lovers would communicate through letters since now, at their finger tips, they can just send a short message, commonly known as SMS.
However, Pele Moleta, the man who has in the recent past made his name in the banking sector, says liberalisation is both a ‘challenge and opportunity’ as he qualifies the point that post offices are still relevant.
“There are things that the post office will always provide to help people around the world to have basic services. Liberalisation tries to make sure that the playing field is level,” Moleta observes.
Moleta joined the higher ranks of BotswanaPost last year from First National Bank of Botswana (FNBB) where he had made his way up to becoming head of Mining and Public Sector.
To support his claim that the post offices are still relevant, he sees his arrival at the government parastatal as more to fast track the implementation of Pinagare strategy, which is in tandem with Vision 2016.
He is joining other young CEOs who are accepting jobs in the parastatal sector alongside, Thapelo Lippe, who recently joined the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation (BTC).
“My role here is to fast track implementation (of Pinagare) and give it momentum and also to give impetus for people to see the change,” he reveals.
The Pinagare strategy deals more with refurbishing of the postal network, which is one of the oldest, dating to pre independence. Moleta says the buildings are dilapidated and the facilities old, which need to be refurbished to attract customers to the post offices’ counters.
“People should use the post office as a choice and we must improve ambiance. Even if they (people) queue, they want to queue (because they want a particular service),” says Moleta.
“You might like to go to the post office because you might do other things there. We must be excited that a lot of people come to the post office.”
The Pinagare strategy is also customer centric and aims at improving the customer service after the refurbishment. Moleta says the idea will be to attract traffic and look at providing other services.
The strategy also highlights technology, which is singled out as an enabler and in the end there should be profitability.
Moleta says that there have been given an understanding by government as a shareholder that the refurbishment programme will come in the National Development Plan 10 (NDP 10).
With the fact that NDP 10 might be delayed because of current financial crisis, Moleta says they have means of financing so that they do not burden the shareholder.
Moleta notes that it is important that BotswanaPost reprioritises and ‘sweetens the assets’ to make sure that they get the best out of what they have. The parastatal might defer refurbishing the buildings they have and do them at a later date.
BotswanaPost has 120 branches and 79 postal agencies around the country representing the largest footprint in the country and attractive to companies and government agencies that want to take their services alongside the post office.
Moleta says the post office is still relevant in the modern world adding that he thinks it can and should continue to attract customers.
He says attracting new people into the networks will be achieved through partnerships. Already, BotswanaPost has relationships with Botswana Savings Bank (BSB), Road Transport and Safety (license registration), Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund and Old Age Pension Scheme.
“We need partners to use this footprint. We ought to offer more services. Old Age Pension Scheme is one service and offer payment facilities. The challenge is to find other institutions in government and the private sector,” he notes.
“The challenge is to increase the level of understanding. The tendency is for people to move from rural areas to towns.”
Moleta says the aim of BotswanaPost is to increase the service point and reduce queues. He says they have started installing postal boxes in places that are not necessarily owned by his organisation.
“These are places that normally people will like to go to.”
Moleta comes to BotswanaPost at time when the organisation is ailing with high cost to income ratio of 98% and centralised power.
He says the challenge now is to rationalise operations for the organisation. “We should be able to get more from what we provide and must widen our jaws. Maybe in two years time the ratio could drop maybe to 90%,” Moleta explains.
The Director General is concerned that the chain of command is too centralised at BotswanaPost with decisions that could be taken at a post office level in a rural area being done at the head office.
“We are empowering our people and we want to make sure that processes are supportive of the business. People should take full responsibility of what they are doing. We have pockets of excellence in the BotswanaPost,” he reveals.
To rationalise, Moleta is not ruling out possibilities of retrenching staff but says ‘he asks people to keep current pay’ adding that they will be starting performance based remuneration so that people can work harder.
“We have been paying across the board; unfortunately that thing might come to an end. We should be able to recruit people suitable for the jobs and this will apply across the board.”
“I am calling my management and staff to do more. The resources are what we have.”
Moleta says by accepting a challenge to head BotswanaPost, he is not seeing his role as a CEO, but “my role is to see my country change”.
“What we do is for the customer. My view is that I am still in the service industry. I want to help the ailing organization(s)”, he says on his movement from the banking sector to communications.
“I was humbled at the offer, but I am alive to the challenges.”
Moleta promises that in the next three months there will be fruition of the initiatives.
Who is Pele Moleta? This Mahalapye-born man is a documented banker who made it through the ranks at FNBB.
He graduated from the University of Botswana (UB) with a BA in Economics and Accounts. He has worked for government in the Department of Local Government, Lands and Housing. He later joined FNBB.
He has also worked for Old Mutual and IFSC.