By Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, and Bridget Masango MP, DA Shadow Minister of Social Development.
It has been revealed that Telkom is threatening to cut off the South African Post Office (SAPO) over an R225 million unpaid bill. Since 2014, Telkom has been providing the SAPO with communications services to the value of almost R1 billion. This is despite the entity receiving billions in State-funded bailouts.
The Post Office CEO, Nomkhita Mona, has since stated that such a development could jeopardise the payment of social grants to around 10 million South Africans. This is the same CEO who instructed the entity to not pay R700 million in staff medical aid contributions, which is of course fraud and SAPO directors can be held accountable in a court of law.
The DA is deeply worried by this development, as this will affect the country’s most vulnerable citizens, SASSA grant beneficiaries – yet another prime example of ANC incompetency and criminality.
The issue of grant recipients not being able to collect their grants isn’t a new issue. For months now, SAPO has failed to pay rent, electricity or water bills for Post Office buildings, which led to the closure of numerous branches all across the country. Where the buildings are privately owned, the owners have been left to foot hundreds of thousands of rands in unpaid bills.
The DA has also received numerous complaints that SASSA grant recipients have not been paid this month. Upon going to SASSA offices, these SASSA beneficiaries were told that SASSA could not assist them and that they should rather consult the Post Office as the problem lies with them. Following this consultation with the Post Office, they were once again advised to consult with SASSA offices rather than the Post Office. There is simply no accountability and while government entities remain confused, every day South African citizens are bearing the brunt.
Members of the SAPO board are now fighting for the contract with Telkom to be terminated so that the tender bidding process can be opened. Given the State Capture Commission revelations and the fact that there are examples of such tenders going only to ANC cadres at hugely inflated prices, this should be fought tooth and nail.
The DA has for months been reporting on the mismanagement and criminal activity within the SAPO, and this latest development hardly comes as a big shock. A few weeks back it was reported that the SAPO Incurred R131.5 million in fruitless and wasteful expenditures and R2.4 million in irregular expenditure.
This was, however, followed by some welcome news that National Treasury won’t be providing the entity with another bailout, as it simply doesn’t meet the requirements. It was also revealed in the Standing Committee of Public Accounts (SCOPA) that the SAPO creditors could indeed force the entity into liquidation over unpaid debt. This liquidation would have dire consequences for grant recipients who have to rely on Post Offices to receive their grants.
The DA believes that the SAPO should indeed be pushed into liquidation over unpaid money. The staff must receive full compensation, pensions, medical aid benefits and all other benefits they have been paying for, which contributions have never arrived at their intended destination.
The SAPO is another massively failed Stated-owned entity and it has cost taxpayers billions. Let private companies do what they do best, and provide better services than the ANC state could ever deliver.
The DA will be questioning both Ministers Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and Lindiwe Zulu. We want their immediate plans to ensure that these 10 million grant recipients aren’t cut off without a cent.