Calls for privatisation of certain aspects of the SA Post Office

The SA Post Office has closed 314 branches across the country.

The SA Post Office has closed 314 branches across the country.

Published Jun 27, 2023


Durban — The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has assured Parliament that the government is working tirelessly to save the SA Post Office (Sapo) which was placed under provisional liquidation earlier this year.

A reply to parliamentary questions revealed that 314 Post Office branches were closed in the past three financial years, with a further 24 closed in the first month of the current financial year.

MP and DA spokesperson on communications, Natasha Mazzone, said this high number of closures had forced many people to travel long distances to access postal services.

“This shocking development not only undermines the integrity of our national postal service, but also affects millions of people who rely on local branches to access essential services such as receiving their Sassa grants,” she said.

She said urgent intervention was needed to save the Sapo.

Since 2013, the Sapo has been losing millions in taxpayer money every year, and these losses have been steadily increasing, as a result, it has been forced to cut its workforce and shut down branches.

In the latest 2023 Budget, National Treasury announced the Sapo would get another bailout of R2.6 billion from government coffers. This follows years of bailouts and bailout requests.

Mazzone said: “If this trend continues, individuals may be forced to travel long distances to the nearest Sassa outlet, exacerbating their already challenging circumstances. Furthermore, the ANC government’s plan to establish a Postbank owned by Sapo is deeply concerning,” Mazzone added.

She questioned how the ANC expected a state bank “to be successfully operated by an institution that has failed to avoid liquidation and pay its employees for months on end.”

Mazzone said the potential collapse of such a bank would jeopardise the life savings of hundreds of thousands of people and further erode public trust.

She said the DA was calling for the urgent privatisation of certain aspects of Sapo to ensure its profitability as a state-owned enterprise.

“This crucial step will not only safeguard Sapo’s survival as the national postal service, but also guarantee the timely payment of salaries, medical aid and pensions to its dedicated employees,” Mazzone said.

In May this year, Minister (Mondli) Gungubele introduced the SA Post Office Amendment Bill before Parliament.

This was the next step in getting the bill adopted and enacted into law, which would see the Sapo’s mandate change, allowing it to expand its services and offerings, particularly in the e-commerce and courier space.

Earlier this year the group said it had been left with no choice but to retrench some 6 000 people – 40% of positions – due to its financial constraints.

It noted that the wage bill made up 68% of its costs, and its business had become unsustainable due to private courier companies encroaching on its services and the government itself steering clear of using it.

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