The only post office open in Makhanda has not had electricity for nine months

Staff use their cellphones to light their work

By Loyiso Dyongman

16 April 2024

The post office on High Street in Makhanda has been without electricity since July 2023. Photo: Loyiso Dyongman

The only post office in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape has been operating without electricity since July last year. Now customers are furious that because the computers don’t work they can’t get the television decoders they ordered and as a result can’t watch their favourite channels.

The post office premises, in High Street, is rented from a private owner. According to a source in the municipality who did not want to be named, when the post office stopped paying rent, the owner stopped paying electricity to the municipality. The municipality finally cut off the electricity on 25 July.

The SA Post Office is in business rescue. Business rescue manager Anoosh Rooplal confirmed that the property was rented but did not respond to other questions. “What I can say is that Makhanda (Post Office) branch is to remain open,” said Rooplal.

Questions sent by GroundUp to municipal spokesperson Yoliswa Ramokolo on Thursday last week have still not been answered in spite of several further attempts to make contact.

The High Street post office serves residents in Makhanda, and surrounding farms and towns, including Peddie villages and Riebeek East. Customers now have to travel to Port Alfred for services that require electricity.

When GroundUp visited the post office on Tuesday last week it was dark inside. Workers were using their cellphones for light. One employee who did not want to be named said staff went to work just to sit in the dark. “We can’t perform our duties and serve customers. It is also stressful to us when we can’t serve people,” said the employee.

Customers also complain that they are unable to access any services which need computers, such as tracing parcels. “This is a big problem, the Post Office is now just there for nothing. We can’t get services, as employees cannot log into their system. The system needs electricity to function and there is none,” said Tembani Sangotsha from Extension 8 in Makhanda.

Some Makhanda residents say they have not been able to access SABC1, which is switching to digital transmissions which need a decoder. They say they applied for their free decoders last year at the post office, following an announcement by the SABC. But now with the post office computers unable to function, their applications cannot be processed, and their decoders cannot be installed.

“We are sad now as we can’t watch SABC1 Xhosa and Zulu news and some soapies that we enjoyed at home because of the electricity blackout at the Post Office,” said Yonela Cakwebe, from Enkanini informal settlement in Makhanda.

Two other post offices in Makhanda, in Joza and Market Square Mall are permanently closed because of continuous burglaries. The Joza post office was closed early last year and the Market Square Mall post office in 2022.