Post Office loses bid for release of bank accounts

Johannesburg – The North High Court in Pretoria on Friday rejected a bid by the SA Post Office (Sapo) to have its bank accounts released, part of a battle by a cellphone service provider to recover R50m.

“The court ruled that the application to have its bank accounts released is devoid of all merits. All their bank accounts have been attached and they remain attached since Monday and Tuesday,” said Bernard Hotz, of Werksmans attorneys.

“The judge asked counsel for the SA Post Office if they could pay the R50m and counsel in open court admitted that they can’t afford to pay.”

Asked if this was an admission that the Sapo’s financial affairs were in disarray, Hotz replied “that’s putting it mildly”.

Sapo spokesperson Khulani Qoma, however, told News24 it was still trading.

"Please note that our bank accounts have not been frozen at all, hence we paid our employees today," he said in an SMS.

Hotz is acting for Nasasa Cellular, which entered into a five-year agreement with Sapo on September 13 2004, for Sapo to sell its cellphones and contracts at its post office outlets countrywide. It was hoped the collaboration would result in profits for both parties.

Sapo, however, failed to honour the agreement and cancelled it in October 2007. In December that year several years of litigation began, with Nasasa initially claiming R1.3bn in damages.

On January 15 this year, a settlement agreement that the Sapo would pay Nasasa R50m was made an order of the High Court in Pretoria. The money was to have been repaid by the end of that month. Sapo failed to honour this agreement.

On Thursday, the Sapo applied to the high court to stop the enforcement of a warrant of execution granted to Nasasa, pending an application for a recission of the January 15 court order. It also wanted to be able to use its bank accounts to trade and pay salaries. The accounts are held with the four major banks and the Postbank.

The sheriff of the court would now approach the banks to determine how much money was in Sapo’s bank accounts and which properties could be attached, in a bid to get the R50m.

Qoma said the initial agreement and the settlement contravened the Public Finance Management Act and Sapo wanted the court to make a determination on this.

“The SA Post Office is trading and is able to pay. For example, our employees were paid today,” he said.

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