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Comms dept prolongs SAPO’s exclusivity period

Communications minister Mondli Gungubele has extended the exclusivity period during which the South African Post Office (SAPO) will provide a reserved postal service, including the delivery of small parcels.

In a blow to local last-mile delivery couriers, SAPO will continue to deliver parcels weighing 1kg and below for a period ending on 1 April 2025.

This, after Gungubele in February published a notice in the Government Gazette, requesting information on his intentions to evaluate, in terms of Section 16(8) of the Postal Services Act, 1998 (Act No 124 of 1998), the period during which no person/entity other than the SAPO may provide a reserved postal service.

In an updated notice published yesterday in the Government Gazette, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) states: “The minister of DCDT has reviewed the period during which no persons other than the South African Post Office may provide a reserved postal service, and hereby extends exclusivity for SAPO to provide reserved services for a period ending 1 April 2025.”

In terms of schedule one of the Postal Services Act, the reserved postal services include:

  • Delivery of all letters, postcards, printed matter and small parcels weighing up to 1kg.
  • Issuing of postage stamps.
  • Provision of roadside collection and address boxes.
  • Provision of retail outlets at which customers can access reserved services.

As per the department, SAPO is mandated by legislation and its licence to offer postal services universally to all citizens across the country. This ensures equal access to a basic postal service for everyone, regardless of their location, at a consistent postage rate and an affordable price.

The review follows SAPO’s legal action against PostNet and the SA Express Parcel Association (SAEPA), seeking exclusive rights to deliver packages weighing 1kg or less.

The court battle, ongoing since 2018, has raised concerns among online shopping players, which fear that blocking courier companies from distributing items weighing under 1kg could spell disaster for SA’s e-commerce industry.

A spokesperson for the SAEPA, a body that represents a large number of e-commerce couriers, previously told ITWeb that if the court rules in favour of SAPO, this could lead to immense financial and logistics consequences for e-commerce courier partners.

“We believe the Act, correctly interpreted, does allow couriers to deliver sub-1kg items. It is only in the sphere of the basic postal services that SAPO has a monopoly. So, to this end, we believe sanity will prevail,” noted the SAEPA spokesperson.

With SAPO currently under business rescue, e-commerce players believe its provisional liquidation process will work in their favour, in the ongoing court bid.

The court matter has been held up due to a procedural dispute between PostNet and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.





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