JOHANNESBURG - Career  woman Flora Jika says her appointment as a bigwig at a subsidiary of the world’s largest beverage company could not have come at a better time.

Coca-Cola Beverages South Africa (CCBSA) appointed her as logistics director last month after almost a decade with the leading global soft drinks producer.

Jika, 36, says she could not be happier as she has worked her entire life to achieve the influential position. 

She holds a masters degree in industrial engineering and an undergraduate degree in mining engineering, both from Wits University. 

Jika, who joined CCBSA in 2008 after a four-year stint at Anglo American’s Witbank coalfields, says the company helped her to discover herself, that she is quite a “fierce and resilient” individual.

“Look, I’m not fierce as in aggressive, but when I do things I do them to almost addiction,” she explains. “For instance, I started running last year and this year I ran the Comrades Marathon and finished.” 

She says joining CCBSA made her feel at home and realised she could grow her career at the company.

“It’s at Coca-Cola that I got to learn a few truths about myself, that I’m very spirited, you know. I’m also quite resilient. Those two qualities make me challenge the status quo.” 

So passionate was she to grow in her career that she would sometimes go to work at 2am and call it a day well after 8pm. She attributes this to her strong work ethic which helped her get in par with her male colleagues, while steadily growing the corporate ladder.

“Professionally,” she says, “I could not be happier with the appointment because I dedicated my whole life in my career.” 

She admits, however, that with great power comes great responsibility. One of her responsibilities is to review the company strategy to see if it's in line with the set objectives.

“Right now, I’m reviewing the organisational structure to see if we have the right people, in the right seats, on the right bus,” says Jika, matter of factly.

“That’s all I’m doing right now and it’s taking a lot of time.” 

She has set herself a September deadline, just in time before the summer season gets under way.

“Summer is a key period for Coca-Cola because a lot of South Africans drink Coca-Cola a lot during this period. If we don’t have the right people we could make a lot of mistakes in the business.” 

She reveals that the “Coca-Cola system” produces 280 million cases of drinks per year, but is elusive when asked how many cases are consumed locally, saying: “Sugar tax! Sugar tax!” 

The sugar tax, formally known as the sugary beverages levy, was introduced by the government on April 1. It is aimed at supporting the Department of Health’s ambitious goals of reducing diabetes, obesity and related diseases.

Jika says she is aware of the unfair “stigma of obesity” attached to Coca-Cola brand and argues strongly against it.

“My role is to remove that stigma because Coke doesn’t make you fat, your lifestyle does! I want to remove that stigma by promoting healthy living and to make exercising fashionable.”

She notes that people spend a lot of their time in the office and rarely goes to the gym, exercise or run. 

Her other mission is to grow women into leadership roles in her field. “I would like to see more women speaking with authority about logistics,” says Jika.

“Once I’m settled in my new role, I will dedicate my time into that.”