Post Office fails to deliver, again

It’s not surprising that South African president Cyril Ramaphosa or the National Command Council didn’t declare the South African Post Office (SAPO), an essential service.

The struggling State Owned Enterprise (SOE) couldn’t deliver a party in a brewery, if Myrtle van Niekerk’s epic battle to recover
R2 400 she was owed, after a parcel she sent to South Korea arrived three months after the promised date, is an example.

Talk about snail mail.

It’s not the first complaint I’ve had of this nature. Vince Conway of Fish Hoek had to wait from May 2018 to March 2019 for a refund of R1 073 on a parcel he sent to America, which reached its destination 33 days after the promised four to five days.

Martie Gilchrist, the then spokesperson for the Post Office (Western and Eastern Cape), did everything she could to help
Mr Conway, unlike her successor, Emma Tshatsinde who said, “send me the letter”, and apart from forwarding the correspondence that Ms Van Nierkerk received from the Post Office’s call centre agents, didn’t lift a finger. And Ms Tshatsinde ignored my many emails for progress reports.

Ms Van Niekerk’s sad saga started when she posted a parcel to South Korea on April 17 2019 from Cape Gate.

The Scottsville resident said, “Normal postage is R630 and it would take up to six weeks to be delivered. I paid R3 015 so it could be sent by airmail which would then take two to four weeks to reach its destination. But it only arrived three months later, on July 25 2019 with a few hiccups along the way.

“Apart from clothing, the parcel also contained hair care products,” Ms Van Niekerk said.

“That’s the reason for my claim of R2 400 which was calculated by Mercia at the Cape Gate Post Office. At one stage the Post Office told me the parcel was lost and I filled out a refund form in October 2019. Then it was found on May 21 2019 but not sent back to me as I requested on the form in the slim chance that it would be found. It was despatched on June 10 2019 via Swiss Air when it finally landed in South Korea and delivered on July 25 last year,” said Ms Van Niekerk who sent me the trail of correspondence between her and the Post Office.

It was just a litany of excuses and of promises to follow it up from Goodness Ngobese; Promise Buthelezi; Nicole September; Theo Zeederberg; Mercia Nonies and Lucia Groenewald; to name a few. And for good measure Ms Van Niekerk also emailed the National Consumer Commission and Prudence Moilwa of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), with a spectacular lack of success.

Meanwhile, the many call centre agents kept urging the other to intervene. But Ms Tshatsinde studiously ignored my plea to help Ms Van Niekerk. Even though a few emails were sent during lockdown, it’s no excuse as many people are working remotely.

Branch manager of Cape Gate Post Office, Mercia Nonies wrote to Goodness: “(sic) An application for a refund has been send to your office on 07/10/2019. When I can I expect the signed off refund back in my office. Mrs Renay (sic) Van Niekerk need urgently answer. I will appreciate if you can contact her yourself on behalf of customer services and give feedback to her as well. Looking forward for positive response (sic).”

There was no response.

“Mercia we are all still waiting for the refund matter to be finalised by Head Office. No refunds are being signed off at the moment,” Lucia Groenewald told Ms Nonies.

Finally, Ms Van Niekerk decided to take matters into her own hands and pursued the matter with Goodness Ngobese, one of the many call centre agents she had been dealing with, and her perseverance paid off. “When there was nothing forthcoming from the PO I took it upon myself to find the relevant person to assist me. I received my refund on March 13.”

This was almost a year after she applied for a refund for “non-existent and shoddy service”.

Now Postnet, one of the largest privately-owned courier companies, has approached the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to put a ruling on hold which would have prohibited the franchise from couriering any package weighing 1kg or less from March 17.

The Pretoria News reported that the legal action follows after Icasa acted on a recommendation by the Complaints and Compliance Committee following a complaint lodged by the South African Post Office about Postnet also offering reserved postal services to the public.

The Post Office said it was the only entity licensed in terms of the Postal Services Act to courier packages weighing a kilogram or less.

In terms of the Postal Services Act, reserved postal services include all letters, postcards or any articles weighing a kilogram or less, the Pretoria News reported.

Postnet said in court papers it has provided courier services for almost 25 years.

Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen suspended ICASA’s decision, pending the outcome of review proceedings.

As this is being written, the Post Office was due to reopen.

However, the unions are demanding more personal protective equipment for the State Owned Enterprise’s workers before the service resumes.