Mark Barnes resigned as the SA Post Office CEO on 1 August 2019, citing differences on a forward strategy in relation to the structure of the group – in particular the location of Postbank.
Barnes has now shed more light on his decision and why he believed that his difference with the government could not be overcome.
At the core of the decision was Barnes’ belief that Postbank should be part of the Post Office, and that splitting the two organisations would destroy both.
Speaking to the SABC, Barnes said any Post Office which only delivers mail and packages does not have a great future.
“Postal services around the world which have been successful have an integrated offering which spans financial services, eCommerce, logistics, and mail,” he said.
Using the example of SASSA social grants, Barnes said that neither the Post Office nor Postbank could deliver this service on its own.
The SA Post Office and Postbank
Barnes said there was a time when the solvency and the capital strength of the Post Office were in question.
Because of this, National Treasury and other stakeholders took the view at the time that the right place to hold a bank was not inside the Post Office, where capital is questionable.
Barnes said this has now changed, however, and the SA Post Office is a solvent and liquid organisation.
This means that the Post Office can house Postbank, which can, in turn, support the strategy of an integrated organisation.
According to Barnes, this integration supports the efficient allocation of capital to build a strong company.
Then need for a Postbank in the Post Office
Barnes said the low end of the market (LSM 1 to 4) does not currently have access to banking services.
“They have been banked by micro-lenders at costs which they can never afford. Here creditors become a destroyer and not an enabler,” said Barnes.
He added that the Post Office has an extensive footprint and that local branches are often the first point of contact to the formal economy for millions of South Africans.
He said that inside the Post Office branch is a bank where people can collect social grants, deposit money, and withdraw money.
To ensure efficiency, he argued, the Post Office should be able to offer a one-stop-shop for their financial and other needs.
Barnes said he had a particular vision for the future of the Post Office, while the shareholder – i.e., the government – saw it differently.
“They are perfectly entitled to see things differently, but if you are not in agreement with your shareholder you cannot be charged with implementing the strategy,” he said.
He added that there is a competent team in place at the Post Office, led by interim CEO Lindiwe Kwele, which can still realise the potential of the organisation.