Nine weeks into the South African Post Office (SAPO) strike, South Africans across the board are battling to carry out everyday tasks.
Chronic medication is not reaching patients, especially in rural and poorer communities. Correspondent students’ studies have ground to a halt as the University of South Africa (Unisa) has extended the dates for thousands of students to submit assignments.
"There are currently ongoing talks between the university and the Post Office authorities to resolve the problem," Unisa spokesman Martin Ramotshela says.
The Direct Marketing Association of South Africa says that millions of letters have not been delivered in the past two months, affecting campaigns by banks, insurance companies and retailers.
"We are aware that Post Office contracts with organisations are being terminated. We call on the government to ensure that SASSA (South African Social Security Agency) documents and government pensions are delivered, because that has also been on hold," says Lionel Brown, national treasurer of the Communications Workers Union (CWU.)
Group CEO Chris Hlekane, has been placed on “extended leave,” leaving Mlu Mathonsi acting Group CEO to assess the extent of the damage caused by the strike, while the police investigate cases relating to the strike, including arson and assault.
The CWU was concerned at its conference last month about the “the general regression and deterioration" of the Post Office. It went on the call for “the urgent implementation of the turnaround strategy that the government and the board have long promised.” The union says that this will put SAPO on a sound administrative and management footing. It also said that “a turnaround and improvement in the functioning of the Post Office is not possible under the current corrupt and inefficient management."
The union is calling for around 8,000 casual employees to be given permanent positions and a 15% payrise. It has also called for the dismissal of all board members.
CWU deputy president Clyde Mervin said, “That is where the bone of contention is. It’s the issue of the conversion of these casual workers who have been working for 15 years in vacant positions. The Post Office cannot say today that they don’t have money while they’ve wasted R2.1bn on corruption.”
There have been five strikes since 2011 at SAPO and there seems no end in sight to its labour disputes.
By Kristy Jooste