Picture: SOWETAN
Picture: SOWETAN

FIFTEEN branches of the South African Post Office (Sapo) were closed last year, 14 permanently, because of nonpayment of rent, Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said on Monday.

The closures happened throughout the country and were precipitated by Sapo being evicted or locked out by the landlords.

The minister said in written replies to a series of parliamentary questions by Democratic Alliance MPs that the outstanding amounts would be paid "when there are cashflow improvements" though there was a dispute over the amount of R441,312 allegedly owing for the rent of the Bryanston depot.

Sapo received a R650m allocation in last week’s national budget to help it address its financial crisis and settle the mountain of debts which have had creditors at its door. The company has been reliant on a R4.4bn state guarantee and is also looking for bank loans. It made a net loss of R1.5bn in 2014-15 with a similar loss expected in the 2015-16 financial year.

Mr Cwele said Sapo was clearing the backlog of supplier payments which would be made depending on cashflow improvements.

Responding to DA questions about the Bryanston lease, the minister said the three-year lease started in 2011 and expired in October last year with the rental set at about R90,000 a month. The landlord claimed R441,312 was owing and is withholding Sapo equipment until full payment is made.

"No settlement arrangements have been made because Sapo is currently doing a reconciliation of the outstanding amounts," Mr Cwele said.

The Bryanston Post Office has in the interim been relocated to the Sloane Square Shopping Centre.

Sapo was also not able to send out motor vehicle licence renewal reminders in time the minister said because of the nonpayment of outstanding fees due to it. The matter had now been settled and no further delays were expected.