Prior to 1990, all post and telecommunications services were handled by the Post Office. At that time, however, an investigation was conducted by Professor Wim de Villiers,1 a highly respected economist and entrepreneur, into a number of then state-owned operations. The recommendation of his report was that there be a separation into two individual commercially-oriented businesses: Telkom, providing telecommunications, and the SA Post Office providing postal services.2 This is what then happened.

The Post and Telecommunications–Related Matters Act 1958 (formerly called the Post Office Act) deals with certain aspects of telecommunications.3 Other statutes, such as the Electronic Communications Act 2005 also deal with telecommunications, but it is the 1958 Act which we deal with here. It provides for the formation of Telkom, the transfer of assets and employees to this company (from the State), and certain other matters in regard to its business.

The Act is administered by the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services.

A. Misrepresentations

  1. It is an offence to use the words ‘telephone directory’, ‘yellow pages’, ‘yellow page directory’, ‘telex directory’ or such a mark in a way that will imply that the publication in question is published with the authority of Telkom.4

  2. Any person who fraudulently represents himself to be employed by Telkom commits an offence.5

  3. It is an offence for anyone to make a false statement in any declaration required or prescribed in terms of the Act.6

B. Confidentiality of telecommunications and eavesdropping

  1. Any Telkom employee who divulges the existence of a telephonic communication between people, without their consent, commits an offence.7

  2. It is also a crime to divulge the contents or substance of a telephonic communication, without the consent of the people involved.8
  3. It is an offence for an employee of Telkom to intercept a telephonic communication, or to delay it.9

  4. If an employee acquires information as a result of a telephonic communication between people, he may not use it for his own purposes. If he does, he commits a criminal offence.10

C. Telephone lines and apparatus

  1. It is an offence to do any of the following to any telecommunications line, apparatus, equipment, material or instrument:11
    • destroy or damage it;
    • remove it; or
    • disturb, obstruct or impede its working or use.
  2. With regard to telecommunication lines, and call office cabinets, it is a crime also to do the following:12
    • interfere with or hinder its construction, alteration, maintenance or examination; or
    • delay its restoration.
  3. If you damage a telecommunications line or cabinet, or this is caused by something under your control – a vehicle, animal, tool, whatever – and you are negligent, you commit an offence.13
  1. Not he of Stellenbosch University Rectorship fame, another one. 

  2. – ‘History.’ 

  3. All postal-service related aspects have been removed from the Act, and are dealt with in dedicated legislation. See ‘The Post Office’

  4. Section 99 of the Act. 

  5. Section 102 of the Act. 

  6. Section 103 of the Act. 

  7. Section 105 of the Act. 

  8. Section 105 of the Act. 

  9. Section 105 of the Act. 

  10. Section 105 of the Act. 

  11. Section 107 of the Act. 

  12. Section 107 of the Act. 

  13. Section 108 of the Act.