letters post mail

Image credit: Pixabay/Gellinger

CEO blames SAPO backlog on incoming international mail

Every year, like clockwork, the South African Post Offices deals with a backlog that takes months to clear. 

letters post mail

Image credit: Pixabay/Gellinger

Back in September, SAPO was confident that it would clear the delay caused by a six-week strike by the end of the month. Some 38 million parcels were not delivered during that period.

According to SAPO CEO Mark Barnes, the strike wasn’t the only factor responsible for the backlog, but the outdated equipment in most SAPO branches added to the delay as well. He said at the time:

“I still think that we are within weeks of clearing that backlog as the genesis of it wasn’t just the strike. Our fundamental problem is not having up to date equipment and paying suppliers on time.”

Also during September, Wendy Knowler reported on the public’s anger, sharing stories of some people waiting five months or more for the parcels to arrive.

The Post Office explained in a statement that there was “a substantial backlog at the international sorting centre, which was made worse by the strike during July.”

Mail is slowly trickling through – parcels I’ve personally ordered in March were only delivered six months later, if at all – but it’s not fast enough. Two months have passed since Barnes’ first deadline.

Apart from the initial backlog of 38 million mail items, SAPO says an additional 1 million items arrive every day. Speaking to Business Day, Barnes said the deadline to clear through the backlog has now been extended to the end of November.

According to Barnes, the large volume of international mail received is the culprit here. He said that “the internet is enabling people to buy things overseas for far cheaper than they can get them here,” and added:

“We are seeing a massive increase in internet-based post. Registered mail, for instance, is up 600%.”

But this explanation is not sitting well with consumers. Joshua Michael said on Twitter that it is “bull twang, they just are not doing deliveries because of the time it takes to open and remove what they want from parcells [sic].”

When Thatiso Farrai Dube shared a photo of what the SA mail centre in Johannesburg looks like, a user known only as D said this was the “perfect example why technology will replace humans. If only SAPO wasn’t broke.”

Pierre Jacobs said he has not seen his overseas magazines since July, while Wendy Osmani wanted to know why SAPO is still in business. She added:

“They cost money because usually they are on strike. My Mom sent a birthday card from PE to Pretoria. She got it back 3 years later.”