The Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has fined the South African Post Office (SAPO) R125,000 for failure to deliver mail.
However, the fine has been suspended for three years.
The judgement follows formal complaints lodged with ICASA against SAPO by a group of concerned publishers on 11 December 2014, following extended strike action by the SAPO workforce during 2014, and in previous years.
The judgement also comes after the Public Protector’s investigation and damning report entitled “Postponed delivery” into allegations of corruption, maladministration and misconduct by the management of the South African Post Office (SAPO), published on 23 February 2016.
The group of concerned publishers had asked ICASA, as regulator, to review SAPO’s failure to meet its license conditions during the labour unrest and strikes in 2014, taking into account the resulting financial and other damages to the magazine publishing industry, and to sanction SAPO accordingly.
After receiving the broad complaint from the publishers, ICASA narrowed and focussed the complaint to read: “SAPO is in violation of Regulation 4.1 of the Conveyance of Mail Regulations 2009, as published in Government Gazette No. 32644, by failing to carry mail from the sender to the intended destination”.
During the hearings by the CCC, SAPO argued that it had considered outsourcing the delivery of mail through outside carriers during the strike action, but had reached the conclusion that this would not solve their problems.
However the CCC judgement found that without any evidence of genuine attempts made by SAPO to engage outside carriers, SAPO was not in a position to decide whether this would have been a viable option or not.
The CCC ruled that SAPO should have engaged with outside carriers so as to reach a rational and reasonable decision in this regard. This was, according to the CCC’s finding, where the omission lay.
In terms of the ICASA Act, ICASA may impose a fine on SAPO not exceeding R250 000 if the CCC finds that the carrier failed to comply with Regulation 4 of the Conveyance of Mail Regulations 2009
In considering an appropriate penalty, the CCC found that to impose a direct fine would be unwise in light of the dire financial position in which SAPO finds itself. The CCC further found that the unprotected strike, the violence, and the approach by SAPO to the courts and police, were extenuating circumstances in deciding what the fine should be.
In the circumstances, the CCC made the following recommendation to the ICASA Council:
- That a fine of R125 000 be imposed by the Council of ICASA on SAPO.
- That this fine, however, be suspended for three years.
- That the condition of the suspension is that if the CCC finds that SAPO has, within the said term, been in breach of Regulation 4.1 of the Regulations on the Conveyance of Mail 2009, it will advise Council to make to make the fine operational.