The South African Post Office says the merger of some of its outlets in urban areas across the country will not result in job losses nor frustration for its customers. The entity has earmarked over 80 of its 1 500 outlets for merger or complete closure respectively.
The Post Office owes landlords and service providers over R1.8 billion in unpaid services.
The move to merge or close down some of the outlets is aimed at cost-cutting which the entity incurred due to renting of buildings and security services for its operations.
Several Post Office outlets in and around Pretoria and other parts of the country have already been shut down while affected staff members have been transferred to other outlets.
The Onderstepoort branch in Pretoria North is one of the 54 post office outlets affected. Locals have been advised to make use of nearby outlets. However, for Korrie Bezuidenhout and fellow community members, the relocation of the post office from the area is disappointing as they now have to spend more money to travel to the neighbouring suburb to access post office services.
“How can I say that you go to the Pretoria North Post Office, did you see what’s going on there. There are queues, queues all the way. You cannot even get into the Post Office. In this one, people were good. I was usually coming and take my license here, but now it is not here anymore. It hurts me and it’s not nice, it’s not nice.”
South Africa Post Office Spokesperson, Johan Kruger, says the merging of post offices has already saved the entity up to R20 million. He says they’re planning to have their own buildings to minimize rental costs.
“The Post Office is adjusting its network to cater for changes in customer behaviour; that is why we are merging some outlets. We are also planning to move into the company-owned property to reduce costs. We do it only in urban areas where there’s a nearby outlet no further than 5KM. This is not happening in rural areas.”
Poor security at post offices is also a cause for concern. It’s been hit by series of armed robberies in recent weeks.
Kruger says there’s a plan in place to curb the increasing crime.
Curbing challenges faced by Post Office to social grants recipients:
Lobby group Afriforum says closing down post office outlets is not a good idea. The group’s CEO Kalie Kriel says this is a huge tragedy.
“I mean if we look at it from a community perspective, it is a huge tragedy. If you drive around the country and pass Post Offices, you will see long and long queues of people standing there just to get some service. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know if you going to close up outlets, those branches that are still open the queues will still be longer. So this is not in the interest of all our communities in our country. Irrespective who you are because the Post Office is supposed to play a prominent role but what we are saying, we cannot also go on like this.”
The merging of Post office outlets will save the struggling SOE about a further R4 million annually once the project is completed.
The entity is continuing to struggle financially despite having received over R7 billion bailout from government over the past seven years. It was allocated a further R500 million in the budget for 2020/2021 financial year.