In an internal memo sent to Post Office staff today, South African Post Office (SAPO) Acting Chairperson HN Manzini informed staff that the parastatal has “today accepted a request from the GCEO [Chris Hlekane] for extended leave.” The memo then stated that COO Mlu Mathonsi will be acting in the capacity of Group Chief Executive Officer.
This just hours after the Communications Workers Union (CWU) called on Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele to fire the entire SAPO board for “incompetence and looting” of the entity’s funds.
CWU’s Clyde Mervin tells a different story to the Post Office and says, “The CEO was given special leave and the group executive of mail business [Janras Kotsi] has been suspended.”
The union initially wanted the post office to convert nearly 8,000 casual workers into permanent staff and a 15% pay rise, but is now also asking the government to intervene and fire the board and arrange a treasury bailout of the parastatal.
Things seemed to come to a head last Thursday when non-striking employees allegedly did not get paid. Employees say that SAPO initially told workers that this was due to an IT glitch, and later that the finance team where unable to access the accounts after being barred from the building by striking workers. The report heightened fears that SAPO was bankrupt.
The Star recently reported that a draft audit report by firms Deloitte and Nkonki alleged that the post office had used the employees’ pension fund to pay off an overdraft of R250m. It also claimed the post office had spent more than R2.1bn in irregular expenditure in the past financial year and noted that the financial losses resulted from the irregular awarding of tenders.
Back in Februaury, President Jacob Zuma ordered a Special Investigation Unit to probe allegations around mismanagement of funds, irregular expenditure and tendering abnormalities at the Post Office after it reported a loss of R178.6m on a R5.7bn turnover last year, while struggling to pay its R230m wage bill. Other irregularities include using outsourced services, including DHL, to deliver the mail. The investigation is still ongoing.
Minister of telecommunications and postal services, Siyabonga Cwele reported to parliament that the SAPO overdraft had swelled from R90m in June to R323m in August.
By Jenni McCann