Posting Christmas prezzies - better to send than receive

04 October 2018 - 20:09 By Wendy Knowler
The Post Office issued a statement urging South Africans to send their Christmas gifts overseas soon
The Post Office issued a statement urging South Africans to send their Christmas gifts overseas soon
Image: 123RF/alexraths

Thinking of exchanging Christmas gifts with loved ones overseas this year? Well‚ when it comes to doing so via the South African Post Office‚ it really is better to give than receive‚ because while posting parcels overseas works just fine‚ the same can’t be said for the reverse.

In fact‚ based on the Post Office’s current performance‚ it’s already too late for someone overseas to post a gift to a South African in time for Christmas.

And if the sender declares the value of the gift to be more than the equivalent of R1‚400‚ the South African Revenue Services will deem it “not a gift” and you’ll be charged hefty customs duties and VAT before you can get your hands on it.

On Thursday the Post Office issued a statement urging South Africans to send their Christmas gifts overseas soon - especially if they choose to send them by the cheaper but slower surface mail‚ in other words‚ by ship as opposed to aeroplane.

“South Africa currently has very little delay with items leaving the country‚ but these parcels have to go through time-consuming clearance procedures in the country of destination‚” the Post Office said.

That statement is deeply ironic‚ given that letters and parcels being sent to South Africans from overseas are currently being delayed by up to six months‚ including study material‚ gifts‚ credit cards from foreign banks‚ goods bought from retail sites based overseas and subscription magazines.

The Post Office admitted recently that there was a “substantial” backlog at its international sorting centre in Joburg‚ a result of a massive spike in volume - four times more items coming in from other countries than a year ago - and inadequate sorting equipment.

And the workers’ strike of July dramatically worsened the situation.

“We have now moved all international items that do not need to be assessed for contents or import tax to other sorting centres where the volumes are not so high‚ such as Witspos‚ Tshwane Mail and Cape Mail‚” the Post Office said.

While the backlog has now been shifted from the international mail centre to regional sorting centres‚ they were making good progress‚ the Post Office said.

“We are therefore confident that our customers will soon see an improvement in the delivery of items from other countries.”

But for Donna le Roux of Cape Town‚ it’s too little‚ too late. “A registered parcel of study material posted to me from Jersey Island took two days to get from Jersey to the Joburg sorting depot‚ where it vanished into an apparent black hole‚” she said.

“I have yet to receive it more than four months later.

“In the end I was obliged to get a duplicate copy of the material couriered to me at a cost of R2‚700.”

Melanie Beach of Scottburgh‚ KZN‚ who regularly shops on international retail sites Wish and AliExpress‚ said the latter had recently removed the postage option for South African purchases.

“I imagine they were getting a lot of complaints from South Africans who weren’t getting their purchases‚” she said.

“So now we’re forced to pay a courier fee‚ which is exorbitant - R683 for items of clothing which cost far less.”

But there’s no backlog when it comes to sending items by post overseas‚ so here’s the advice for those planning to send Christmas gifts by post:

  •  Don’t post anything (via airmail) containing lithium batteries. All air mail items are x-rayed and scanned for contents‚ and anything containing batteries will be re-routed to surface mail‚ taking far longer to get to their destination.
  •  Air mail items should be posted no later than December 1 to reach their destinations in time for Christmas.

For surface mail‚ the dates differ depending on your destination:

  • To Britain‚ Europe‚ the Middle East‚ North and South America‚ the Far East and Asia‚ and the islands of Tristan da Cunha‚ Ascension and St Helena – post no later than October 31.
  • To the Seychelles‚ Comoros‚ Mauritius and Reunion – post no later than October 27. 
  • To African countries – the Ivory Coast‚ Ghana‚ Peoples Republic of Congo‚ Democratic Republic of Congo‚ Senegal‚ Cameroon‚ Nigeria‚ Gabon‚ Kenya‚ Tanzania‚ Uganda‚ Burundi‚ Rwanda‚ Madagascar‚ Angola‚ Malawi‚ Zambia and Zimbabwe - post no later than December 1. 
  • To countries bordering South Africa - Botswana‚ Lesotho‚ Mozambique‚ Namibia‚ Swaziland and Zimbabwe - post no later than December 8.