OPINION: SAPO – a microcosm of SS South Africa?

SAPO – a microcosm of SS South Africa?

AS a self-confessed petrol head and general addict of gismos and gadgets, I recently made an on-line purchase – or so I thought – of some small items to make my pride and joy look a little more appealing.

The cost including postage from the UK was less than £10.

A few hours after placing my order I received a polite email telling me that my order was cancelled and I would be refunded my money, but I could order again so long as I used a courier service.

The reason, the vendor explained, was that its experience had shown that items posted to South Africa almost never reached their destination – either ‘lost’ or stolen. So to avoid the considerable inconvenience – and financial loss – only courier services orders would be expedited.

As the cost of a courier service on such a small item was double the cost of the item, I had second thoughts.

This incident brought back memories of other dealings I had with the postal service, both here and overseas.

As a younger petrol head, (a petrol pimple?) while visiting the UK some (pre-internet) years back, I ordered some essential parts for a car renovation project – a sizable object, a fuel tank – and the package was delivered, by post, 24h after I had placed the order to the UK address.

In 2006, while visiting a relative in the USA, my wife and I made a side trip to see the lights in Las Vegas. Four days before Christmas, we realised that we had forgotten to send our grandchildren in the UK their customary gifts, which prompted some hasty gift shopping and a visit to a Las Vegas post office. There we were able to purchase all the packaging materials, labels and a pen necessary to despatch the gifts to the UK address. Thinking that we had missed the 25th deadline, we should not have worried as the US and UK postal services delivered the gifts 48h after posting, intact.

Fast forward to 2017 – again as a serial renovator – I ordered a small item from a supplier in Germany which was immediately despatched and I was provided with a tracking link to monitor the whereabouts of my purchase.

The item was received in Johannesburg within 48h of despatch but it then took three months before I received the goods in Melkbosstrand. I am unable to differentiate the blame between the SAPO and Customs and Excise, but between them a bungling delay was the end result.

I had hopes that Mark Barnes would sort out the incompetence, theft and vandalism endemic in the SAPO when he was appointed CEO in 2016 with a five year tenancy, but alas, political interference in his turnaround strategy forced his resignation after 3½ years. No permanent replacement has been appointed. More recently Khathutshelo Ramukumba, the newly appointed CFO resigned ‘unexpectedly’, after just three months in the job.

In common with just about all significant SOE’s, the SAPO is facing bankruptcy – having received more than R8bn in government (read taxpayer) bailouts over the last decade and is currently facing a loss in the 2020/21 financial year of R2,1bn. Some of the SAPO current debtors, amounting to more than R640m, have been waiting since August last year for payment…

What a way to run a country.