‘We are still not there but we see light’ — Sapo on clearing mail backlogs

The South African Post Office (Sapo) says it is dealing with a local mail backlog of about 4.8 million items – but the international figure is much higher.

However, the precise nature of the international backlog is unclear.

Sapo has been working hard to clear the accumulation after a strike about four months ago led to a backlog of almost 38 million parcels and letters.

“From a local perspective, we are down to 4.8 million items in the backlogs,” CEO Mark Barnes said.

Barnes added that they were expecting to have the backlog cleared by end of November. 


He said although the Sapo previously promised that the backlog would be cleared by the end of September and again in October, they could not meet their promises for various reasons.

“International mail is a little bit more complex because we are seeing an influx and a high volume of items being ordered online and those goods require a lot of servicing,” said Barnes.

He said in some instances, Sapo had to manually intervene by checking invoices and counter parcels. That also caused a backlog in international mail.

Barnes said the post office was prioritising items, from those that were “more urgent ” to those which weren’t priority mail.

“With mails such as things like magazines and so, you would expect the backlog to be more,” he said.

He said staff members were doing their best to catch up, especially because of the peak, Christmas season.

“For us, Christmas starts at around October and runs through to January. That’s our peak four months of the year.

“We have kind of improved the situation from April by 90%. We are still not there but we see light…,” he said.

To assist with the crisis, Barnes said the Sapo had deployed more resources by beefing up regional managers and it paid up all its suppliers.

“We are in discussions internationally with having more than one point of entry into SA and not have everything coming to us. If things are destined for Kwazulu-Natal, we are trying to root them straight into Durban rather than [having] them coming through our terminals,” he said.

He added that the department was also deploying people to assist in mail centres every Friday. — News24

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