The SA Post Office has launched court action against PostNet and the SA Express Parcel Association, aiming to make the Post Office the only operator that can deliver packages weighing 1kg and less.

If the court rules in the Post Office’s favour, the impact on courier companies and e-commerce business would be immense.

Given the operational difficulties that the Post Office has been facing, DPO SA MD Peter Harvey believes that placing limitations on who can handle smaller packages could have a very negative impact not only on the local logistics sector, but also on South Africa’s budding ecommerce sector.

“There is a strong argument for a robust, well-funded and effective Post Office,” he says. “However, in the absence of that, we must ensure that the private sector is allowed to fill the gap.”

Harvey points out that tens of thousands of e-commerce companies operate in South Africa, many of them small businesses that have sprung up as a result of Covid shutdowns. “These smaller businesses, which are already dealing with the complexities of competing against larger, and even international companies, rely on their courier partners to ensure reliable, secure and fast delivery.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to advise these SMEs we have highlighted the importance of this last mile in the customer journey. In many instances it will be the lasting impression in the minds of the shopper and can be the difference between securing repeat business, or losing a customer to the competition.”

Harvey believes that placing limitations on who can handle smaller packages will not only negatively impact the local logistics sector, but could very well have a negative impact on our budding ecommerce sector.

“This seems counter-intuitive to the president’s drive to support the principles of a 4IDR-based economy, not to mention jeoposing many thousands of jobs,” he says. “In our opinion, the government should work hard on improving the state of the South African post-office and then allow it to compete against the private sector based on service and price, rather than relying on anti-competitive regulations to secure its future.”