Ex-stein­hoff boss Markus Jooste came to par­lia­ment well pre­pared to ob­fus­cate and de­flect blame from him­self for the re­tailer’s col­lapse, but enough emerged for the Hawks to start cir­cling. Will they?

Financial Mail - - FEATURE / STEINHOFF - Rob Rose roser@fm.co.za

As Stein­hoff’s dis­graced CEO Markus Jooste was leav­ing par­lia­ment last week af­ter a three-hour grilling, there was a mo­ment few no­ticed. mem­ber of the Fed­er­a­tion of Unions of SA (Fe­dusa) walked up and shouted in his ear: “How do you feel? We lost bil­lions be­cause of you, how do you feel? And you come here and act as if noth­ing is wrong. You must be ashamed of your­self.”

Jooste, as he has done for months, set his jaw and ig­nored the taunt — as he ig­nored the throng of jour­nal­ists ask­ing how it felt to lose R3bn of his own money, the value of his Stein­hoff shares that went up in smoke.

At that stage, the civil ser­vants who be­longed to Fe­dusa had lost plenty. Hav­ing bought Stein­hoff shares worth R5.7bn, they’d seen that stock tum­ble to R667m.

Speak­ing to the FM last week, Fe­dusa gen­eral sec­re­tary Den­nis Ge­orge said: “Jooste doesn’t want to take re­spon­si­bil­ity. When you’re the CEO the buck has to stop some­where. For him to try to put the blame on some­one else is to­tally un­ac­cept­able.”

Ge­orge says Fe­dusa is go­ing to wait un­til af­ter the PWC re­port on Stein­hoff’s col­lapse comes out, “and as­sess what ac­tion we’ll need to take — whether to go to court or par­tic­i­pate in a re­struc­tur­ing”.

He has been meet­ing with Stein­hoff chair Heather Sonn to dis­cuss Fe­dusa’s strat­egy. “She’s a per­son with in­tegrity and a per­son we can work with to come up with a so­lu­tion,” he says.

Some felt that Jooste’s ap­pear­ance in par­lia­ment served no real pur­pose — that be­cause he didn’t im­me­di­ately ac­cept any blame there are now nu­mer­ous ver­sions of what went wrong and no sense of where the truth lies.

But in fact it was sig­nif­i­cant that par­lia­ment got him there at all. Jooste had gone to court to set aside the sum­mons oblig­ing him to tes­tify.

In his court pa­pers, he ar­gued ev­ery tech­ni­cal­ity un­der the sun. He said the sum­mons was “fac­tu­ally in­valid” (be­cause it didn’t say what doc­u­ments he had to pro­duce) and “the name and des­ig­na­tion of the per­son who must serve the sum­mons was not spec­i­fied”.

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