The South African Post Office says it has shut down 144 branches across the country – mainly due to unprofitability, congestion and crime.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A, the SAPO said that most of the post offices shut down in urban areas were closed due to unprofitability, as well as congestion of branches in certain areas.

However, branches in rural areas have been shut because of incidents of crime.

“A total of 144 branches were closed. Out of the 144 closed branches, 26 were due to non-payment of rentals,” it said.

While the Sapo said that incidents of crime has forced closures in rural areas, safety and security are also increasingly becoming a problem in some urban areas.

The group mentioned a vagrancy problem in Verwoerd Park, Alberton, in the south of Johannesburg, where mail is now being redirected to the Alberton Post Office due to numerous complaints regarding the safety of clients while accessing their mail.

“The lobby box has a severe vagrant problem. This is despite a fence being erected and several interventions by the South African Police Service – both of which have not deterred the vagrants from returning and utilising the facility,” the Sapo said.

No plans are in place to tackle the problem due to a lack of funds, it said.

Financial stress

In April, MyBroadband reported financial woes at the Post Office, with landlords kicking branches out of premises, branches shutting down, and the postal agency putting fourteen of its properties up for auction.

A Post Office spokesperson said that the group was in the process of adjusting its branch network, adding that no Sapo-owned premises with customer post boxes were up for sale.

“The SA Post Office is using its network strategy to rationalise its branch network, and no Post Office-owned outlets with post boxes are being sold or for sale,” they said at the time.

The spokesperson said forced closures would see post boxes moved to the nearest Sapo-owned premises.

Sapo’s annual report for the year ended 31 March 2020 revealed it had incurred losses of R1.8 billion.

At the same time, its current liabilities exceeded its assets by R1.5 billion.

Communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni responded to parliamentary questions surrounding the Post Office’s financial situation, saying that “…the Post Office does not have the required funds to settle its liabilities.”

As a result, Sapo has also fallen into arrears of R485 million with its suppliers.

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