The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has reiterated that South Africa’s postal laws determined that only the South African Post Office (SAPO) may deliver packages weighing 1kg and less, although this does not include food.
Its comment came in a letter denying a BusinessDay report that it was backing the Post Office in its fight against courier companies over the rendering of these services.
The state-owned postal service has developed a reputation for late and non-delivery of packages, which has resulted in the loss of much of its mail-carrying business to private couriers.
Defending its business, the Post Office argued it has the exclusive right to carry and deliver all postal items weighing 1kg or less – and said it is capable of doing so.
To address couriers taking a bite out of its business, it lodged a complaint with ICASA over PostNet delivering these types of items.
This resulted in ICASA sending PostNet a cease-and-desist order in October 2019 for violating the Postal Services Act 124 of 1998.
According to the Act, the Post Office is the country’s only licenced postal services operator which may render services defined as reserved postal services.
This includes all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels, and other postal articles up to and including 1kg.
As a result, ICASA’s Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) ruled the Act created a constitutionally justifiable monopoly in favour of the SA Post Office.
Shortly thereafter, however, PostNet secured an urgent interdict against ICASA’s ruling which has allowed it and other courier companies to continue offering these deliveries until the high court hears the matter in full.
Alongside the South African Express Parcel Association (SAEPA) – which represents major couriers in the country – the company is challenging SAPO and ICASA’s interpretation of the law.
A date for this hearing is yet to be determined.
ICASA is opposing the application, but denied that its filing of court papers in which it defended its decision could be viewed as support for the Post Office’s argument.
ICASA spokesperson Paseka Maleka said the regulator’s mandate was to implement what the law required, and it was doing exactly that.
“The statement that ICASA is backing SAPO to stop private courier companies from delivering small parcels is incorrect, because the law in terms of schedule 1 [of the Postal Act] is clear that letters and parcels between zero and 1kg are reserved for SAPO, while unreserved postal services can deliver parcels from 1kg up to 30kg,” Maleka stated.
“ICASA is also empowered to develop and implement regulations in line with the legislation.”
“In doing so, ICASA ensures that the playing field is level and everything is done fairly and non-discriminately.”
Maleka said the courts still had to determine whether ICASA’s interpretation of the law was the same as that of the Post Office before its stance could be viewed as one of support.
He also clarified that food delivery services such as UberEats and Mr D Food would be exempted from the rule, as they did not fall under postal services.
This was based on schedule 2 (b) of the Postal Services Act, which made reference to exemptions that apply to unreserved postal services, Maleka stated.
The exemptions described in the Act are as follows:
- Delivery by an employee of the sender exclusively for the private affairs of the sender.
- Unaddressed mail.
- The exchange or service of legal process, proceedings, pleadings, affidavits or 15 depositions.
- Occasional letters delivered by an individual not in the business of delivering letters.
- Trade announcements, circulars, printed extracts from newspapers, or advertisements which are not addressed to any person.
- Newspapers and periodicals.
It was not immediately evident how food was excluded under these exemptions.
MyBroadband asked ICASA for comment, but did not receive feedback by the time of publication.