A recent MyBroadband test showed that it took the South African Post Office (SAPO) 81 days to deliver a letter between two locations 48km apart.
The letter was sent on 27 July 2018 from the Jeppestown Post Office in Johannesburg to the Lyttelton Post Office in Centurion – and was received on 16 October 2018.
The delivery time of 81 days is well outside the SA Post Office’s estimated delivery time of “three days between two cities in the same province”.
It is also far outside the Post Office’s licence conditions, set by ICASA, which require it to achieve a 92% rate of delivering ordinary mail within five days.
In fact, the SA Post Office failed to deliver any of the letters – over 20 were sent in this test – within 5 days.
Slower than the the Roman Empire’s delivery service 2,000 years ago
While South Africans have grown accustomed to receiving dreadful service levels from state-owned institutions, it should not be seen as normal.
A letter will typically be delivered within a day or two in any normal functioning postal service, like the US Postal Service or the UK’s Royal Mail.
The SA Post Office, in comparison, is slower than the Cursus Publicus, the state-run courier and transportation service of the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
The Roman Empire’s delivery service used light carriages and fast horses to transport messages and tax revenues from one province to another.
The average speed of a messenger over the Roman road system was estimated to be around 50-80km per day.
It is estimated that it took the Cursus Publicus around 63 days to deliver a message from Rome to Egypt (Alexandria).
Fast forward 2,000 years, and even with excellent roads, fast cars, and computer systems, SAPO cannot deliver a letter between two Post Offices in Gauteng within two months.