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Cwele orders immediate suspension of Post Office CEO

The minister says the SIU has been called in to investigate allegations of maladministration.

Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: EWN.

CAPE TOWN - Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele has told the board of the South African Post Office (Sapo) to suspend its chief executive Christopher Hlekane with immediate effect.

Sapo executives were grilled by Members of Parliament about the ongoing postal strike, the half a billion rand loss, the unaudited financial statements, and the fact that Hlekane requested and was granted extended leave.

Cwele told Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services that problems within Sapo management are chronic.

He said the Special Investigating Unit has been called in to investigate allegations of maladministration.

Sapo has also been beset by ongoing labour unrest, the latest being an unprotected strike by casual labourers which has brought mail delivery to a standstill.

He said a functioning Post Office is essential for a wide range of South Africans and has called on striking workers to return to work.

Cwele said workers' problems can only be addressed when the Post Office begins to function again.

'NEGATIVE TERRATORY'

Sapo executives told the committee the Post Office has gone into negative territory since the government subsidy stopped this year and that a mountain of mail remains undelivered because of the strike.

The Post Office has been experiencing a sharp dip in revenue and is posting a loss of more than R500 million this year, the first year it has operated without the subsidy.

Earlier, committee chairperson Mmamoloko Kubayi, had sharp words for Sapo executives.

She said a postal worker had called her at 6:30am to complain they had not yet been paid.

In reply, Cwele told the committee that for the second month running, there has been a cash flow problem holding up salary payments.

A Sapo executive ensured the committee that all payments would be completed.