This is not a paywall.

Register for free to continue reading.

We made a promise to you that we’ll never erect a paywall and we intend to keep that promise. We also want to continually improve your reading experience and you can help us do that by registering with us. It’s quick, easy and will cost you nothing.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish up registering with us:

Please enter your password or get a login link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for registering.

SA Post Office’s crisis worsens, and it’s been decl...

Business Maverick


South African Post Office’s financial crisis worsens – and it’s been declared insolvent (again)

The Post Office's learning and development centre in Midrand. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

The SA Post Office’s crisis has worsened at operational and financial levels, as the entity is cash-strapped, battles to honour its debt payments when they become due and is loss-making. It posted a group-wide financial loss of R2.3-billion in 2021, extending its money-losing streak to 15 consecutive years.

The Post Office recorded a daunting financial loss in 2021 which has rendered the state-owned enterprise (SOE) technically insolvent for a second successive year. 

Its 2021 annual report reveals that total liabilities at group level exceeded total assets by R2.5-billion, making the company technically insolvent. The Auditor-General’s office has also confirmed the insolvency in its audit of the Post Office’s books – similar to a finding it made in 2020 about the SOE’s worrying financial situation. 

The Post Office’s total liabilities (including long- and short-term borrowings and other obligations) of R10.5-billion are more than its assets (including cash reserves on its balance sheet), which were worth R8-billion at the end of March 2021. 

The technical insolvency doesn’t necessarily mean the Post Office is on the verge of financial collapse, because it can sell its assets, such as properties, to free up cash to pay down debt, or look to the taxpayer for a cash bailout. However, its balance sheet has become uncomfortably riskier. 

A reading of the Auditor-General’s report on the company’s financial statements, accompanying the 2021 annual report, indicates that, in some instances, rookie mistakes were made by its accounting/finance department in reporting the numbers. 

Skills at the Post Office’s C-suite have eroded, as, in the past year, the entity lost a chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief information officer and chief audit executive. Five members of the board also resigned, including the chairperson. 

The Auditor-General found an “inadequate status of accounting records and lack of sufficient appropriate information” at the Post Office, which undermines its ability to determine the accuracy of its cash flow and liabilities or determine the value of its assets. 

The Crisis: Water Armageddon loading as Day Zero looms for Nelson Mandela Bay

Financial crisis intensifies

The Post Office – like other SOEs, including the Land Bank, Denel, the airlines SAA and SA Express, and Armscor (the procurement agency for the Department of Defence) – missed the key deadline of 20 September 2021 to present its annual report to Parliament. It published its annual report in recent days – and it makes for grim reading. 

The Post Office’s crisis has worsened at operational and financial levels, as the entity is cash-strapped, battles to honour its debt payments when they become due and is loss-making. On the last point, the Post Office posted a group-wide financial loss of R2.3-billion in 2021, much lower than the R5.3-billion in 2021.   

Its financial crisis has worsened to the extent that it cannot afford to pay statutory contributions on behalf of its more than 15,000 workers, including medical aid, pension savings and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefits. These payments have been outstanding for more than a year. The Post Office also owes millions to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for taxes relating to salary payments. At last count, it owed SARS more than R600-million in outstanding pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) contributions. 

Put differently, the Post Office continues to pay its workers their full salaries and probably deducts their PAYE contributions – but doesn’t hand over the deductions to SARS. Deducting from workers’ salaries and not handing the funds over to relevant authorities such as SARS is illegal, and this pernicious behaviour carries sanctions, including criminal prosecution or an organisation being slapped with a large bill for arrears.

In the private sector, business owners have been prosecuted for not paying over PAYE, UIF and pension savings deductions. Beyond the Post Office, SOEs including SAA, SA Express and Denel have, at some point, failed to pay tax, UIF and provident fund benefits, but faced no legal consequences.

Mail delivery functions cannot be fulfilled

The Post Office’s weak financial position is also hobbling the ability to carry out its most basic function – delivering mail. It has an annual performance target of 60% regarding the timeous delivery of mail to consumers across South Africa. 

Operational disruptions caused by Covid-related lockdowns prompted the Post Office to reduce the target by 7%. But it has failed to meet its reduced target – its mail-delivery performance was 52.95% by the end of March 2021, far below the target of 92% set by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, a regulator that keeps a close eye on Post Office operations. 

In recent years, the Post Office’s mail-delivery performance has deteriorated, drawing furious criticism from the public. At the beginning of 2018 it had achieved a mail-delivery rate of 87%.

Post Office CEO Nomkhita Mona, who has been in the job for a year, previously argued that the entity’s problems cannot be remedied unless it is recapitalised by the government. She recently argued in Parliament that without a bailout of at least R8-billion from the government, the Post Office’s financial position would continue to deteriorate. DM/BM



Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 9

  • Somebody somehow has to come up with a plan to fix these SOE’s. All they are asking for is R8 billion. Who dreams up these numbers? Every single entity that the ANC and their cadres have touched is in tatters. Where will it end. My feeding is that what Zim looks like now is better than SA will be very soon.

      • Agreed but the scary thing is who or what will replace them. Currently there is no viable alternative. The DA generally has the ability but the vast majority wont vote for them. I quite liked John Steenhuizen’s suggestion to Cyril that the DA should join forces with the Ramaphosa faction, hence leaving the dreaded RET faction and the EFF with far less power. I think that this could be a workable solution to SA’s many woes and would unite the country.

  • No surprise here. Trashed according to the ANC script applied to all SOE’s. Treason is “the crime of betraying one’s country.” Does the betrayal of taxpayers and citizens resulting from the catastrophic destruction of SOE’s not put this appalling Govt in the cross hairs?

  • “…far below the target of 92% set by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, a regulator that keeps a close eye on Post Office operations.” — Don’t be silly. ICASA has the teeth of a snail. It is less than useless.

  • The Post Office was destroyed by the unions in 2014 when they embarked on a 4 month strike. Business was lost that will never be recovered. No-one sends Xmas cards now – what is the point of receiving a card in February? You can’t send a parcel in case the contents are stolen. At least union leaders have a guaranteed salary!

  • As I shake my head & laugh mirthlessly, the words of ‘And the band marches on’ come to mind. ‘The band marches on. Mother forgive them. We are almost home. Destination still unknown.’

  • Their appalling 52.95% delivery rate doesn’t surprise me in the least. I was one of the lucky ones. Last year I had ordered an item online from the USA which was posted, arriving via the Dutch International postal Hub in just 2 weeks (totally acceptable considering the Covid restrictions). My parcel then took a staggering 2.5 months to travel from Jo’burg to Cape Town. What is doubly frustrating is that I couldn’t track the parcel on the SA Postal website and if you try and phone any of their Post Offices, the staff never answer. Totally disgusting!!

  • Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted