Major blow to couriers and deliveries in South Africa

 ·27 May 2024

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) has extended the period of time in which no other service but the South African Post Office can provide ‘reserved’ postal services in the country.

This period has been extended to 1 April 2025, it said in gazette on Monday (27 May).

This follows notice in February 2024, where the department announced its intention to review section 16(8) of the Postal Services Act, which refers to the period of exclusivity.

Under this clause, any licenced postal service providers – such as couriers – are restricted from providing selected services. This includes:

  • The delivery of all letters, postcards, printed matter, small parcels and other postal articles weighing up to 1 kilogram;
  • The same as the above, if it fits into a rectangular box (458mm long x 324mm wide and 100mm thick) or cylinder (458mm long, 100mm thick, up to 1kg).
  • Issuing of postage stamps
  • Provision of roadside collection and address boxes.

The Post Office has long held the exclusive right to be the sole provider of these services, but due to the collapse of the SAPO, it has never been practically upheld.

In the vacuum of the failed state-run postal services, many independent services and couriers have cropped up over the years, building successful businesses.

In 2018, the SAPO took groups like PostNet and the SA Express Parcel Association to court to try to uphold the law and prevent these groups from encroaching on the SAPO’s exclusive rights by ordering them to stop delivering small packages.

This was supported by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).

However, a high court interdict prevented this from happening as more heavyweights in the sector – including Takealot – entered the fray.

In the meantime, the South African Post Office has continued to collapse. The group has been operating at a loss every year since 2013, and has exceeded R19 billion in losses over this time.

In December 2023, the DCDT said that SAPO expects another R2 billion loss in 2024, amid business rescue proceedings, which would see the group downsize significantly.

The Post Office is facing over 4,800 job cuts.

Business group Sakeliga took issue with the department’s February notice, arguing that it was nonsensical as the SAPO’s 25-year exclusivity licence in terms of the Act commenced in 2001, which means the period would have expired on 1 April 2025 anyway.

Other amendments to the licence dealing with exclusivity periods have been made, which the group said would have already expired in March 2022.

The gazette can be read below:

Read: Post Office vs couriers in South Africa – big change coming

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