End of an era for Muizenberg post office

The first post office building in Muizenberg which is now part of the Police Museum.

A loss of income due to Covid-19 and a rental dispute are behind the closure of the Muizenberg post office, according to the South African Post Office.

The post office in the Shoprite Centre in Muizenberg’s Main Road closed on Thursday February 17.

SA Post Office spokesman Johan Kruger said the owner of the building terminated the lease when the post office could not pay the rent.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the initial restriction on business operations had a dramatic effect on the post office’s revenue. The outstanding rent will be paid as soon the post office’s financial situation changes,” he said.

The first post office in Muizenberg was built in 1911 on Main Road and is now part of the Police Museum, according to the former chairman of the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society, Chris Taylor.

Mr Taylor said that in the Cape Colony, the British authorities released the Cape of Good Hope 4-penny triangular stamp in 1853, which covered the cost of mailing a half-ounce envelope and having it delivered to the addressee and “public post offices became an essential service immediately”.

The building, he said, housed the telegraph office, mail handling, and presumably delivery.

The telegraph was the “email of the time” and Mr Taylor said Cecil John Rhodes was a huge fan of the telegraph.

“It allowed immediate long-distance transmission of messages from office to office,” he said.

By 1934, Muizenberg had grown and a “bigger and better” post office was required.

The new post office was built on Main Road, opposite the park and next door to the old Masonic Hotel, and was “huge” in comparison to the first one.

“It was a three-story building, decorated with tile artworks, containing the mail and parcels department, the telegraph department with its attendant delivery boys on bicycles, and, importantly, a busy telephone section where women worked the telephone exchange, plugging in and connecting incoming and outgoing calls,” he said.

If you believed the old days lacked the efficiency of modern technology, think again, Mr Taylor said.

“Back then, if Doris in Fish Hoek invited her friend Violet in Muizenberg for tea that afternoon via postcard, Violet would have been able to respond and state her delighted acceptance before Doris had time to switch on the kettle as long as Doris had posted her postcard before collection, which was at 8.30am,” he said

There were two collections and two deliveries each day.

But now, he said, the telegram had gone, letters came mainly through email, courier services had taken over the delivery of parcels, and telephones were automated so what was left for the post office?

“The main activity at the Muizenberg post office seems to have been the payment of social grants, which an ATM can do for a fraction of the cost, and for 24 hours per day,” he said.

Shoprite representatives referred the Echo to the company’s property management, which did not respond by deadline.

Switchboard operators in the old Muizenberg post office.
The Muizenberg post office in the Shoprite Checkers centre closed last month.
The second “bigger and better” post office which was built in 1934.