Limping postal service lies in limbo

Is there still a place for the post in Zimbabwe? The government remains quiet on plans to resuscitate – or not – the country’s postal and stamp service, which has virtually collapsed in the face of modern technology.

The post office in Harare – now housing a flea market.
The post office in Harare – now housing a flea market.

In the past, Zimbabwe heavily invested in its postal service infrastructure around the country, but most of the buildings have since been converted to other uses due to diminishing business.

The country’s biggest postal service centre, Harare Main Post Office, was partly turned into a flea-market. Some say this has been allowed to happen when the postal service should have been upgraded to keep up with technology and to provide vital services to poorer residents.

The chairperson with the parliamentary portfolio on communication technology, postal and courier services, Nelson Chamisa, said they were yet to work out what to do with the postal service.

“It is too early to give information about the future of the postal service, as my committee is yet to come up with a work plan in this regard,’ he said.

The MDC-T Kuwadzana legislator said parliament would decide on the subject soon.

However, the minister of communication technology, postal and courier services, Webster Shamu, has yet to respond to questions forwarded by The Zimbabwean regarding his plans for the ministry.

The president of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Hlanganiso Matanganidze, said the postal service remained relevant to Zimbabwe’s needs since some parcels were still sent through postal services.

“Government Postal and Telecommunication Services should have adopted a plan to ward off competition ushered in by digitalisation. Other competing service providers such as DHL are providing swift and convenient services such as overnight postal services,” he said.

Economist Eddie Cross said the collapse of the postal service would not have any serious impact on business and the economy, since it had been dysfunctional for quite some time.

Cross said, given the technological advancement across the globe, it would be uneconomic for government to revive the service in its old form.

“Most people no longer use postal services, but if government sees it as a viable project, it has to resuscitate it since some rural areas would be better off with the facility,” Cross said.

Bulawayo-based economic analyst Eric Bloch said old postal services died a natural death since most people were now using faster means of communication such as electronic mail. But he acknowledged the need for government to sustain postal services, since there was need for efficiency in all government departments and services.

“Though the postal service continued losing its relevance to the economy, government should give it some life, but not make it a priority,” said Bloch.

Town residents and villagers expressed mixed feelings about the service. Those in urban centres dismissed the postal service as outdated, while some in rural areas highlighted gaps that could be filled by the crucial service.

“With digitalisation, over 90 percent of Zimbabweans own mobile phones through which they communicate with relatives and friends in split seconds.

We no longer need the postal service,” said Susan Jackson of Mabvuku.

Richard Sakurira of Domboshava said the postal service remained relevant since not everyone had access to phones and email.

“Government postal services should provide invaluable services for the poor, since they were subsidised,” said Sakurira.

The Zimbabwe Postal Service, which continued to function, albeit with a limp, and deliver to even the most remote areas of the country, survived the total collapse experienced by some state services.

Though at a reduced scale, there are still electronic money transfer services and door-to-door letter and parcel deliveries in most parts of the country through the postal agency.

Zimpost is also able to deliver promotional materials in the form of fliers, brochures and pamphlets at affordable rates.

Rural communities use the mass mailing system through post boxes at post offices.

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