Minister delivers post office ultimatum

Siyabonga Cwele, the minister of telecommunications and postal ­services, has allegedly asked the board of the South African Post Office (Sapo) to resign. And if they didn’t quit, he would fire them, according to a senior board member who spoke to the Mail & Guardian on condition of anonymity.

But approached for comment on Thursday, Cwele’s spokesperson, Siya Qoza, said the minister had not asked the board to resign.

The post office strike is now in its third month. Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) president Clyde Mervin told the M&G that casual employees at Sapo had received emails and SMSes notifying them of their dismissal.

The senior board member said members of the board would ­formally hand over their resignations to Cwele on Friday November 7.

“An administrator has already been appointed to take over the board’s duties and he will also appoint a new board,” said the source.

Weak controls
The former post office board member in charge of procurement, Nobuhle Mthethwa, resigned last month. Mthethwa cited the board’s “lack of decisiveness, consequence management and agility” as reasons for her resignation.

She said the board’s weak controls and poor decision-making were partly to blame for the operational and financial ruin at the post office.

Business Day reported last year that Sapo’s board was sitting on a backlog of 33 tenders, a result of a new “procurement task team” appointed in 2012, composed of board members, who had interfered with tender processes.

The CWU’s Mervin said he welcomed the dissolution of the board.

“We want the whole executive management to be held accountable and we’re happy our voice has been heard,” Mervin said. In October, Mervin said, the union wanted Cwele to fire the board so that an arrangement to bail out Sapo could be reached with the treasury.

Financial distress
He said the post office had claimed to be in financial distress and operating at a loss, but salaries for management had increased whereas casual workers had not been paid.

“That’s why they had to go. If the minister accepts their [the board’s] resignations, Sapo can start on a clean slate,” he said.

Last Friday Sapo submitted its financial statements to the parliamentary communications portfolio committee, which showed that expenses outstripped revenue. Sapo posted an unaudited net loss of more than R359-million for the current financial year.

The state entity also declared a procurement breakdown of irregular expenditure of R2.1-billion. Sapo’s supply chain management unit had reviewed the lists of procurement contracts and identified expired contracts that were still in use and that some stock items had been procured without formal contracts. During her presentation to the parliamentary communications portfolio ­committee last Friday, Sapo chief financial officer Khumo Mzozoyana said the annual financial statements for March 31 2014 had not been finalised and “engagements” were taking place with the ministry of telecommunications and postal services and with the treasury.

According to the Democratic Alliance’s Cameron MacKenzie, a member of the communications portfolio committee, Sapo was the only state entity that failed to submit audited financial statements this year. He said the auditor general had refused to sign the financial statements submitted by Sapo.

“There were disagreements as to whether some items should be classified as irregular expenditure or fraud and wasteful expenditure.[But] why would any CFO [chief financial officer] present financial statements that were not audited? Heads are going to roll [at Sapo]. We expect the minister to fire the board.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Cosatu needs to get creative

With lockdown regulations in place, default industrial action methods need to be sidelined and new ways of protest considered

Pillar to post office

If President Cyril Ramaphosa’s crackdown on corruption is to succeed, new rules for lobbying and tenders need to be implemented

Covid-19 lockdown pushes Wits University to offer online learning

The university plans to teach online as South Africa’s lockdown continues, and is offering zero-rated data for its teaching sites, as well as computing devices for students

Bad workplaces, longer strikes

Strikes over poor working conditions have intensified over the past four years, the recently-released Industrial Action Report for 2018 reveals.

Competitors take on the post office

Blamed by many South Africans for offering a shoddy service, the embattled institution faces financial strain and serious competition

Samwu shows its local-government muscle

The union’s financial and governance woes have not blunted the tools it has to paralyse municipalities, such as going on strike

Subscribers only

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

SAA bailout raises more questions

As the government continues to grapple with the troubles facing the airline, it would do well to keep on eye on the impending Denel implosion

More top stories

Hawks swoop down with more arrests in R1.4-billion corruption blitz

The spate of arrests for corruption continues apace in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Catholic NGO boss accused of racism and abuse in Sudan

The aid worker allegedly called his security guard a ‘slave’

Agrizzi too ill to be treated at Bara?

The alleged crook’s “health emergency” — if that is what it is — shows up the flaws, either in our health system or in our leadership as a whole

SANDF hid R200m expenditure on ‘Covid’ drug it can’t use

Military health officials are puzzled by the defence department importing a drug that has not been approved for treating coronavirus symptoms from Cuba

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday