Post office closures force grant recipients to go the distance to receive much-needed funds
Hundreds of social grant beneficiaries and Expanded Public Works Programme workers have to travel many miles to get their money because the Sapo branch in Paterson in Sundays River Valley, Eastern Cape, has been closed for over a year.
Hundreds of social grant beneficiaries and Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) workers have to travel far to get their money because the Post Office in Paterson in Sunday’s River Valley, Eastern Cape has been closed for over a year now.
The Paterson post office is among scores of South African Post Office (Sapo) branches which have been closed in recent months. The Post Office is now under provisional liquidation.
Lindiwe Cakwebe of Mandela Village says she is one of about 45 EPWP workers who get their salaries through the post office. She said that since the closure in March 2022, they have to travel to post offices in Addo or Alicedale, some 37 kilometres away by car.
“Most of us use the post office to access our stipends. But since it closed, it’s hard to get our R850 stipends. We have to borrow a lot of taxi fare from loan sharks to travel to nearby towns,” said Cakwebe.
She said it costs R60 for a return trip to Alicedale and about R100 to Addo by taxi. “But even there sometimes we are told there is no money. Then we have to go to Alexandria near Port Alfred and spend another R120 or hitch hike.” Cakwebe said sometimes they hitchhike as far as Gqeberha to get their money, though the queues at post offices there are very long.
Cakwebe said she owes a loan shark over R500 and this has severely affected her ability to support her family. “My mother is bedridden because of a stroke. Her disability grant money is only enough for her needs. I’m diabetic and my health is not stable because I can’t afford to buy vegetables anymore. I eat porridge, mealie meal and rice every day,” she said.
Another EPWP worker, Ntomboxolo Khungwayo, said it took her five months to have her wage paid into a private bank account.
The Department of Public Works did not respond to our questions on how it intends to deal with payments to workers should more post offices be closed.
Pensioner Ntsizi Jacobs said, “When our post office was operational, I was able to save money. But now I have to make sure that I have R100 for transport to Addo in order to withdraw my pension. I had to borrow R100 to withdraw my grant in Addo because I had no food at home for me and my unemployed son.”
Suzie Khumalo, national Sapo spokesperson, did not comment on the closure of the Paterson post office. She said, “Right now we cannot comment to the media because we are dealing with sensitive issues. I would advise you to visit our website.”
On Sunday, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Mondli Gungubele released a statement on branch closures at Sapo.
Frans Mthombeni, spokesperson for the Department, said that the minister has requested that the Board and Management of Sapo “provide him with a detailed account of the circumstances that led to this development, the steps taken by the Board to address the issue, and measures that Sapo intends to implement to resolve the situation promptly”.
“The Minister emphasised the importance of Sapo as a crucial government service platform which caters to millions of citizens and cannot afford to cease its operations,” said Mthombeni. DM