SA Govt Eyes Digital Post Office amid Buyout Offer

The South African Post Office (SAPO) is not for sale, says communications and digital technologies minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni.

The minister says her department is working with SAPO management and its board to reposition the troubled institution to become relevant in the digital era while working towards the resolution of its financial challenges.

This follows reports that former SAPO CEO Mark Barnes had offered to buy a majority stake in the troubled institution. In terms of the proposed deal, Barnes and partners in the private sector would own between 60% and 75% of the post office.

Addressing Parliament yesterday, Ntshavheni rebuffed the move by Barnes, saying SAPO has the potential and if properly harnessed, the reach of its postal network holds great potential to position the institution as a strategic contributor to economic and digital inclusion in South Africa.

According to the minister, notwithstanding its current challenges, SAPO has the potential to contribute to SA's social and developmental goals by providing postal, logistics, ICT and government services via its far-reaching postal network.

“We have supported the board and management of SAPO to develop a strategy to reorganise and reposition the Post Office to become a leading logistics service provider for South Africa and the region; logistics service partner to other e-commerce and logistics players, including small, medium and micro-enterprise and informal traders nationally and internationally based on its expansive postal network; and e-commerce hub for South Africa and the region,”

said Ntshavheni.

The minister also said her department is

“considering modalities to designate SAPO as an authentication authority for South Africa that will also enable it to effectively fulfil its role as a national trust centre in the age of digital identity and services”.

Further, Ntshavheni said, her department is gaining momentum in its efforts to ‘corporatise’ the Postbank.

She explained:

“Through the Postbank, we plan to ensure all South Africans have access to financial services in a manner that facilitates economic participation for all. Through the work of the post office as a trust centre, we are planning to finalise biometric technology as primary identification for clients of the Postbank.

“The use of biometric technology will restore the dignity of our elderly who cannot write, where they will be treated in a similar manner when they use biometrics to confirm their identity instead of a written signature.

“In this regard, we are working with institutions of higher learning to establish South Africa as an AI biometrics hub as we advance artificial intelligence technology in our country and region.”