Communications and Digital Technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has published the South African Post Office Amendment Bill for public comment.
The bill aims to rapidly expand the post office’s mandate from simply delivering parcels to providing ‘diversified and expanded services, including e-commerce and financial services’.
“The objects are expanded to ensure that the post office is not only empowered by the legislation to provide basic postal services but is empowered to provide other value-added services to expand on its revenue-generating streams,” the department said.
Expanded services and e-commerce
The bill provides for a range of expanded services that will be offered through the post office, including:
- Government services;
- Agency services;
- Financial services;
- Authentication services;
- Warehousing services;
- Serve as a ‘digital hub’ for businesses and communities.
The revised mandate also empowers the post office to provide logistics and e-commerce services and serve as a logistics partner for e-commerce and other logistics players.
The bill will allow the post office to charge different fees for different services and in certain areas, subject to regulator approval.
This is to ensure that the post office can recover services costs and not operate at a loss, the department said.
“Furthermore, the amendment allows the Post Office to differentiate its service offerings at different post offices and service points based on the needs assessment for a particular area. This is also to ensure the effective and efficient usage and enhancement of services offerings by SAPO to communities.”
Government focus and couriers
The post office is currently entrusted with a universal postal services obligation to provide services everywhere in the country – even in unprofitable areas that do not make business sense. By comparison, the department said other operators ‘cherry-pick’ affluent areas where they are guaranteed to make a profit.
“Allowing for the utilisation of SAPO infrastructure to be utilised by governments departments at a fee will offset the losses that they are currently incurring to provide universal services obligation that they are required by law to provide, regardless. This will also ensure that SAPO does not rely on government bailout and subsidies as is currently the case.
“In this regard, SAPO should be seen as an extension arm of the government and as such should be considered the preferred supplier of certain services, especially in the rural areas where the combination of post office services and government services will ensure full government services housed in a single operation,” it said.