“Holy” Mark Barnes is running his mouth — Mondli Gungubele

South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele, suggested that former Post Office CEO Mark Barnes was not as good a steward of the beleaguered state-owned mail carrier as he claims.

Gungubele told 702’s Bongani Bingwa that he had read the newspapers and stories in which Barnes is quoted.

“How holy Mark Barnes has been in this process. One day when all the facts are put on the table, the public will be clarified,” he said.

Gungubele also seemed to suggest that Barnes was speaking out of turn during a sensitive period for the Post Office.

He said the current liquidation threat means that the role-players involved with the Post Office “are at a very sensitive stage.”

“We want to handle the matter in a commercially advisable way,” he said.

He contrasted this approach with Barnes’ willingness to reveal information about the Post Office.

Barnes was the CEO of the Post Office from 2016 to 2019 and is the current executive chair of Purple Group.

Barnes told Bruce Whitfield on the Money Show on 12 April that the offer he made last year to buy the Post Office still stands despite the threat of liquidation.

The Post Office already has a “brilliant plan”

Minister Gungubele said government is doing everything it can to salvage the Post Office.

He said that the Post Office serves mostly the poor and its continued operation is in the public interest.

He said a “brilliant plan” is already in place to turn the Post Office around — the ‘Post Office of Tomorrow’ plan.

The plan is intended to modernise the Post Office. It includes introducing new services like online motor vehicle license renewal bookings and an electronic registered mail service covering all South African citizens.

The R2.4 billion allocated to the Post Office in the National budget will be allocated towards this plan, MyBroadband confirmed with Frans Mthombeni, acting head of communications at the Department of Communication and Digital Technology.

Minister Gungubele said the funds allocated to executing the plan are only now becoming available.

While the minister is pinning high hopes on the Post Office’s turnaround plan, this is by no means the first time large amounts of capital have been injected into the Post Office.

Mondli Gungubele, South African Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies

The South African Post Office was allocated a cumulative amount of over R7.3 billion between 2016/17 and 2018/19, according to the 2023/2024 budget.

The Post Office has recorded consecutive annual losses for the previous 15 years.

Taking another shot at the former Post Office leadership, Gungubele said the current plan would only succeed if the institution’s legacy were dealt with.

“It is starting on the basis of the legacy of the past, which needs to be dealt with so that the plan takes off in a useful way. The plan remains very clear.”

Gungubele did not exempt himself from criticism for the failings of the Post Office, even though he is new to his current role. He said he had been a part of government, and there is widespread recognition that a better job could have been done with respect to the Post Office.

“There is no doubt everyone, even if it’s a predecessor [referring to former communications ministers], we all agree that we could have done better.”

MyBroadband tried contacting Mark Barnes for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Read Now: Former Post Office boss’ plan to save the bankrupt mail carrier

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“Holy” Mark Barnes is running his mouth — Mondli Gungubele