The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) has announced its intention to review contentious laws granting the South African Post Office (SAPO) exclusive rights to provide certain postal services. This move comes as the SAPO faces ongoing challenges, prompting a reevaluation of existing regulations to address the evolving landscape of postal services in South Africa.
In a notice gazetted this week, the DCDT signaled its intent to review section 16(8) of the Postal Services Act, which currently prohibits any entity other than the SAPO from offering specific postal services. These services include the delivery of letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels weighing up to 1 kilogram, issuance of postage stamps, provision of roadside collection, address boxes, and retail outlets for accessing postal services.
Despite the legal framework establishing SAPO’s exclusive rights, the practical implementation has been hampered by the organization’s declining operational capacity. With the SAPO facing financial difficulties and operational inefficiencies leading to substantial losses, the landscape of postal services in South Africa has witnessed the emergence of independent courier services filling the void left by the SAPO’s limitations.
In an attempt to enforce its exclusive rights, the SAPO resorted to legal action against entities like PostNet and the SA Express Parcel Association in 2018. However, a high court interdict thwarted these efforts, allowing other players like Takealot to enter the market, further challenging SAPO’s dominance.
Recognizing the need for a comprehensive review, the DCDT has invited public input on the matter. The department’s gazette emphasized the importance of ensuring universal access to basic postal services for all citizens, irrespective of their geographical location, at affordable rates. It remains unclear whether the review will result in the abolition or reinforcement of existing regulations, as the DCDT seeks insights from stakeholders to inform its decision-making process.
Meanwhile, the SAPO continues to grapple with financial woes, recording consecutive losses since 2013. With projections indicating another significant loss in 2024, amidst ongoing business rescue proceedings, the future of SAPO hangs in the balance. The imminent downsizing of the organization underscores the urgent need for regulatory reform to address the systemic challenges plaguing the postal sector in South Africa.
Interested parties are encouraged to submit written comments on the proposed review within 30 calendar days of the gazette’s publication, scheduled for 6 March 2024. Comments can be directed to Ms. Phendile Dlamini, Deputy Director of Postal Policy, at the provided address or email.
Address for Written Comments:
Ms. Phendile Dlamini Deputy Director, Postal Policy 1166 Park Street, Iparioli Office Park, Block Office A3, First Floor, Hatfield, Pretoria Private Bag X860, 0001 Pretoria Email: email@example.com
By soliciting public input, the DCDT aims to foster transparency and inclusivity in the regulatory review process, ensuring that the future framework for postal services in South Africa reflects the diverse needs and interests of its citizens.