By Gershom Ndhlovu
Sending letters and parcels to Zambia from abroad is an absolute nightmare because one is never sure whether the intended recipients will receive the items or not because of the untrustworthiness of some Zambia Postal Corporation (Zampost) staff.
Quiet often, letters arrive with a torn corner when they arrive because someone in the sorting office thinks the envelope may contain foreign currency while chances of a parcel bearing a foreign stamp ever turning up are almost zero. Almost a year ago, I sent two parcels to Zambia from the UK which never turned up on the recipient’s doorsteps, never mind whether they were registered or not. I also know other people who have lost items in the post.
In the number of years I have lived in the UK, if there is one institution I have come to trust above anything else, it is the Royal Mail and its agents, the Post Office. There is no way the Royal Mail can ever fail to dispatch an item. Of course, this is not to say there are no dodgy postmen and women out there, but those are far and wide apart and when they are caught, the punishment is heavy.
This is the trust I want to bequeath Zampost, knowing that each time I enter into a contract with it whether in foreign lands or locally, It will deliver and, most importantly, that those who tamper with mail are punished heavily. As such, I would like to believe that it is just a small fraction of Zampost workers causing pain among its customers.
The problem with Zampost staff to me seems to be that they are still living in the past where they think pinching postal items is part of “amadilu” or deals without knowing how much pain they cause to people sending these items and more so, those expecting them. The items may not cost the world, but it is the sentimental value attached to them that matters.
I do not know how Zampost is performing in terms of profitability, but really, it risks losing business if private entrepreneurs offering a cheaper and more reliable alternative come up. The other alternative is sending stuff through DHL and other courier companies although it would cost a limb.
The British government has opened up postal services to other players in the market and one can only imagine how the Royal Mail, trusted as it and has been in existence for close to two centuries, has had to double its efforts in terms of efficiency not to mention security.
It is for this reason that the Zampost management should weed out undesirable elements now so that the corporation can once again be viewed positively not only by the customers to whom they are supposed to deliver items, but also by other postal authorities who lose money in compensation for lost items.
It is quite shameful that postal workers in other countries sneer when one is sending an item to Zambia and insist, gently of course, that you insure your item because they know that it is a destination that is least trusted.
But what does one expect when every Jim and Jack is picked from the streets to go and sort out mail at Zampost without any background check? The result is a chaotic postal system as is obtaining in Zambia at the moment. The new post-master general should clean up the corporation if it is to regain its image of the by-gone era of the General Post Office when postmen respected people and were in turn respected.
It should not take PF’s Rhoda Nsama to storm a Zampost sorting office to bring this issue to the attention of the authorities like she did with Spar Supermarket which she and other cadres exposed selling expired foodstuffs which is also quite common among so-called mini-marts in townships.
These mini-marts are brazen enough to even cut out the expiry date from packaging on such items as biscuits which children like and therefore exposing them to the risk of catching unknown diseases.—firstname.lastname@example.org.