South Africa’s Post Office hasn’t hit its delivery target in ten years

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) mandates a delivery standard target for the South African Post Office and, since 2015, the postal service hasn’t come close to hitting it.

Icasa’s mandated target was initially 95% delivery success, but the regulating authority dropped it to 92% during the 2014/15 financial year (FY).

The postal service achieved its highest level of delivery success in six years during the 2019/20 FY. It successfully delivered 89.25% of its mail — 2.75% less than Icasa’s mandated target.

However, in the three years leading up to 2019/20, Post Office’s delivery success fluctuated between 73.60% and 87.1%.

Despite Icasa lowering the target in 2015, the South African Post Office (SAPO) only managed to deliver 78% of its mail successfully that same year.

It attributed the significant decline in delivery success to the months-long unprotected strike that took place towards the end of 2014.

The postal service’s delivery success declined further during the following year. It could only successfully deliver 61.20% of its packages — 30.80% less than the Icasa-mandated target.

Delivery success was likely affected by further Post Office strikes during the 2015/16 financial year.

While the situation has improved since then, the last time SAPO achieved a 90% delivery success was during its 2013/14 financial year. At the time, its target was 95%.

It is important to note that Icasa only implemented its current postal monitoring system during the 2014/15 financial year.

The system monitors and reports on the end-to-end delivery of letters mailed in South Africa via the Post Office.

It also provides detailed stats on individual routes measured and the time taken to deliver letters to the recipient.

Icasa’s postal and spectrum monitoring systems combined cost the regulator R25.2 million.

The South African Post Office’s delivery success between 2011 and 2020

The 2021/22 financial year has been a tough one so far for the SAPO, and its delivery success statistics for the period have yet to be published.

In September 2021, the Solidarity Movement took the Post Office to court over its failure to pay medical aid contributions to the value of R600 million.

“Not only does the Post Office violate its statutory and contractual obligations towards its employees, but it also poses a threat to the lives of its workers through this failure,” Solidarity’s head of legal matters, Anton van der Bijl, said at the time.

He added that if SAPO failed to pay the outstanding contributions, its workers — some of which suffer from chronic conditions — would lose their medical cover to access treatment and medication.

What’s worse is that employee payslips still reflected the medical aid deductions. SAPO has asked for a R8 billion bailout to meet its obligations.

Legal experts have said that SAPO’s use of employee contributions towards their pension and medical schemes to pay other expenses was as bad as state capture.

MyBroadband discovered that many Post Office branches were without power while testing its delivery services in November 2021.

The lack of power was likely due to the post office failing to pay rental for its branches as, by February 2022, SAPO had wracked up a debt of R304 million with its landlords.

Earlier this year, the postal service put fourteen of its branches up for auction in an attempt to generate income.

The combined reserve prices for the properties totalled R23.2 million, which could cover only a fraction of its rental debt — 7.6%, to be exact.

Monopoly over small-parcel courier deliveries

The Post Office is also currently embroiled in a legal dispute with couriers. The postal agency argues that the government has granted it a legal monopoly over all parcels below 1kg, excluding food deliveries.

SAPO has said it is considering a system where private couriers can deliver parcels under 1kg as “agents” of the Post Office.

Couriers must then pay an “agency fee” for the privilege of delivering parcels that weigh less than a kilogram.

The South African Express Parcel Association expects the court to hear its case against SAPO in 2023.

Now read: Post Office’s pension abuse as bad as state capture — Legal experts

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South Africa’s Post Office hasn’t hit its delivery target in ten years