As problems with the South African postal system drag on, some expats are getting frantic about how to send gifts and cards to family and friends in South Africa for Christmas. And vice versa.

Photo: Marius van der Berg

Lindsey Groom, in the Eastern Cape, said she’s “desperate” to get some gifts to Dubai. “I also have two paid-up overseas magazine subscriptions – but it looks like I have wasted my money as I will never receive the orders!!”

Various expats (and locals) have written in to SAPeople as desperate as Lindsey for a solution. And for those abroad, it’s not just about Christmas gifts. Some are missing their favourite South African goodies!

Tonight Lisa Cooper wrote the following:

“Hi there, we are expats living in the UK and with the SA post office being on strike for the past ten weeks, we are desperately trying to find an alternative way to get our much needed Liviton (SA health tonic)!

“The only way found so far is DHL who want to charge a small fortune…and there’s lots of red tape involved because they claim it falls under ‘vitamins’ – and so it will need to be taxed at the UK border (which is ludicrous)!

“We were wondering if any of the SAPeople members know of another courier service or way to get goods to the UK?”

Some recommendations so far include*:

1. DHL (with the pitfalls as above).

2. PostNet
Elizabeth Venter – “Chat to Postnet – they courier via Globalmail.”
Naz Rahim – “PostNet is very good…sent a package to Ireland. Took 5 days.”

2. Don’t ask somebody you don’t know to carry a package
Neil Armstrong – “It’s actually an offense to take anything for someone else you don’t know, no matter how innocent. They ask you that question when you check in your luggage.”
Rose Hendey – “I would use a courier service – legal and a guarantee of safe passage…”

3. And if you do send a package with someone else – keep it light!
Elmarie Viljoen Neff – “5kgs is a bit hectic. Normally one is only allowed 23kgs per person!”

4. Order from online websites

*Please note, SAPeople has not been paid to promote any of the above companies, nor have we used any of them ourselves!

Recommendations for other governments’ postal services include:

1. Warn expats that there’s a strike in South Africa!
Vassi Clainos – “So sorry I didn’t know about this. My parcel is either sitting in a huge pile somewhere, or is already on someone else’s bookshelf! Eish!! It’s a pity the International Postal systems don’t inform their customers that there is a strike, so NOT TO post to South Africa!!”

2. Expats should let international Post Offices know that there are problems with SA’s post.

South African post office strikeSouth African artist Sunette Bridges posted the following message a couple of days ago, accompanied by the photos on the right (she didn’t mention where the photos were sourced):

“Please warn your friends and family in other countries not to make use of the postal service when sending parcels and mail. The South African Post Office is on the brink of collapse and the Johannesburg International Mail Centre is in total chaos.

“Temporary workers have been striking and destroying buildings, parcels and vehicles for 10 weeks now. This has severely impacted on our postal services and the Post Office will most likely not be able to pay salaries to its employees at the end of this month.

“If you were planning to send Christmas cards or gifts, rather make use of a courier service. If at all possible, please inform your local post office of the situation so they can warn other people… Sx”

Recommendations/Messages for the South African government include:

1. Vee Barlow – “Sack the Minister of Posts ‘n Telegraphs – postal services, nursing, education etc. are considered Essential Services. No strikes should be written into their contracts! What do you think?”

2. Connie Ibbetson-kennedy – “What is wrong with this Government? USELESS! This should have been sorted out long ago. A country that has no Postal Service? Taking us back to the “DARK AGES”. WAKE UP ANC!”

2. Maureen Rosemary Wilson – “Ha ha….Zimbabwe has a postal service….we are – as you say Connie -in the dark ages…”

BUT always remember:

“With all it’s current problems, South Africa is still the best country in the world!” – Beryl Theron.

And a word from the Post Office itself:

South African Post Office (SAPO) published the following statement yesterday on their website, with an update on the current situation:

Update on industrial action at some facilities of SA Post Office

20 October 2014

As increasing number of postal workers return to work, processing of mail items continues at sorting facilities affected by industrial action. These include the Witspos processing facility in Johannesburg, the Tshwane Mail facility in Pretoria, and the Germiston processing facility on the East Rand.

At Witspos and Tshwane Mail – the largest sorting centres in Gauteng – employees worked over the weekend. Roughly 60% of mail processing workers are back at work.

The Tramshed post office in Pretoria is closed for repairs following vandalism by striking workers. All other post offices in the city are open.

A total of 43 post offices in Johannesburg, the West Rand and East Rand are temporarily closed, the majority of them for repairs after they were vandalised. Incidents of intimidation are decreasing.

Mail delivery in Bloemfontein, Welkom, Polokwane and Emalahleni was also affected by industrial action. Mail processing has resumed in all areas except Emalahleni and the Post Office is focusing on restoring mail processing and delivery in these areas as soon as possible.

A total of 25 post offices in Limpopo had to be closed today following incidents of violence and intimidation. This was done in the interests of customer and employee safety and in this province, incidents of intimidation are decreasing.

In all other provinces, the postal service is normal with no employees on strike.

Postal workers in Gauteng embarked on an illegal strike on 18 August. Their reason was dissatisfaction with the speed of appointing casual postal employees to permanent positions. On 26 September, mail processing employees in Bloemfontein and Polokwane also embarked on illegal industrial action.

The SA Post Office continues to discuss options with labour unions that will address issues in a sustainable way and restore labour relations to long-term stability.