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Firm attaches Post Office’s digital migration decoders

An investment company in Polokwane, Limpopo, is initiating legal action against the South African Post Office over its failure to pay rent amounting to more than half a million rands.

Savab Investments has also attached thousands of decoders that are part of the digital migration, which has been delayed for years, and said in its court application that it would be a criminal offence to remove or dispose of them.

The post office owes the company R653 591.39 for rental space to store thousands of decoders and satellites, meant for the department of communications and digital technologies broadcast digital migration project, according to a letter from Savab’s lawyers, Nazia Carrim Attorneys. The rental arrears date back to 2016. 

The department said it would not respond to the Mail & Guardian’s questions because they should be directed to the post office as the distribution channel for government-subsidised decoders.

The post office’s spokesperson, Johan Kruger, has confirmed that they know their set-top box equipment is being kept at a property in Polokwane.

“The set-top box roll-out is scheduled to be reactivated in Limpopo province with the planned deployment of the Sentech installers. This is scheduled to take place as soon as Sentech has appointed installers in the province,” said Kruger.

According to Kruger, the only rent they are aware of is R70 626.13 for May 2021.

“We might be incorrect but we have requested a tenant history from the landlord to better understand the outstanding amount he claims.”

But according to the court papers, the state assets at the premises have been attached and fall under judicial attachment in terms of section 32 of the Magistrate’s Court Act even though the post office has already paid an outstanding R349 328 of the rent owed.

The director of Savab Investments, Ameer Bava, says the company has attached more than 5 000 decoders and 5 000 satellite dishes that belong to the post office and that these will be held until payment is made.

According to Bava, Savab Investments has been renting a house to a subsidiary of the post office, Courier Freight Group (CFG), since 2012. In 2016, the post office said it would take over the rental payments on behalf of CFG. When CFG was in the process of provisional liquidation, the post office allegedly committed to also pay all of CFG’s creditors. Bava said the post office had failed to keep this promise to creditors. 

“Since 2016, they have been making excuses that they cannot pay their arrears rental due to the fact that the minister hasn’t signed off an amendment to pay us. Upon research we found they used this excuse to a few other companies,” said Bava. “These people have actually succeeded in avoiding us for about five years now and we are tired and have no options.” 

A source with intimate knowledge of the matter, who asked to remain anonymous, told the M&G that Savab and other companies have not been paid because of delays caused by the department of communications and digital technologies.

“All the documents that need to be signed for these transactions to go through are with the department, they know what must be done. And are just not committed to help the post office pay off creditors.” 

According to the source, the department has failed to turn the post office around despite about R8-billion in government bailouts.

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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