Image: MyBroadband

How to save Mzanzi’s Post Office

Image: Daily Maverick

The South African Post Office is notorious for bad service. Letters sent via the Post Office have a low probability of delivery. This is a state owned company that is a burden to the tax payer. In times of economic hardship, we seriously need to make the South African Post Office work or close it down. Here is my idea to rescue it.

In the digital age, no-one send letters or post cards. The whole population has access to a mobile phone, as coverage is that saturated. The access to door to door delivery or even a post box is low or close to non-existent. I maintain a family one for the geriatrics but even then it is accessed less than once a month. If it disappeared no-one would notice. Heck, in townships addresses are so difficult to determine that it was even problematic for voter registration!

The only purpose the Post Office would serve is as a pension payout point or related low cost banking services. I used to pay my vehicle license at the Post Office, but the I discovered an online alternative and stopped. Every time I went to the post office to renew my license, the eNatis system would be down. Another alternative would be to integrate the Post Office with Home Affairs for the distribution of Passports, ID cards and even visas. Foreign visas could also be on boarded.


But in my opinion, the best saving would be to close the parcel and letter distribution system. Lock, stock and smoking barrel. Rather the system should be turned into a vendor neutral logistics system. The existing real estate and boxes can all be converted to electronic locks such as either of these two examples (Rayon or Acsys). However, any other alternative similar solution would be viable! The current post boxes only work for small parcels so some extra larger ones need to be build for larger ones.

The idea would be that a client registers for an electronic key via a on boarding process that would include verification of identity similar to that of RICA or FICA. They pay a key deposit of in the region of a Mandela or two. They key is associated with a specific mobile number for SMS text messages.

If a delivery is required a logistics partner, e.g. Makro, the Courier Guy or whoever, pays a Rhino to the Post Office and is provided with a post box (small or large) and the client’s key is programmed to gain access. Obviously, the larger box would cost an Elephant or Lion! The client is notified via SMS/whatsapp of the post box assigned. The distribution partner then delivers to the appropriate post box. Once the box is opened and accessed by the client it becomes available for reuse.

This system is an exercise in the Internet of Things (IoT) deployment. The electronic locks are well established IoT devices and the use case described is an excellent match!

I envisage this system to turn a tidy profit for us poor tax payers! I don’t see anyone losing any jobs and it would provide a significant kick in the pants for the small business entrepreneurs in South Africa.

Lakeside Mall

In New Zealand they have something similar known as ParcelPod.

Makro uses the system below but the density is low.

The Technology Burrow

The clan of braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and computers.

Ronald Bartels

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Ronald is a technologist and service management evangelist. He started driving a tractor when he was five years old and would love to own a Massey-Fergurson!

The Technology Burrow

The clan of braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and computers.