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?
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”.