Scandal tentacles reach deep in SA
“THIS is corporate Nkandla,” said a tweet as retail giant Steinhoff’s international scandal unravelled, sending the company share price tumbling by almost 40% on Wednesday.
Despite initial denials, chief executive Markus Jooste quit on Tuesday, admitting only to having made some mistakes, while the company confirmed a probe into what it called accounting irregularities.
“It is time for me to move on and take the consequences of my behaviour like a man.
“Sorry that I have disappointed all of you and I never meant to cause any of you any harm,” Jooste said in a letter to staff.
As investors went into a tailspin, Steinhoff announced that it had approached auditing firm PwC to investigate the accounting irregularities.
It said billionaire Christo Wiese would step in as executive chairperson in the interim following Jooste’s resignation.
Although technically incomparable with the Nkandla scandal, the likening of the two was perhaps to drive home the sheer scale of Steinhoff’s implosion in a language that ordinary South Africans are all too familiar with.
Yet, massive as it is, the Steinhoff scandal is simply a symptom of a bigger pandemic in our country.
It demonstrates, yet again, how deep and far-reaching the scourge of corruption is.
It punches a massive hole in a widely held, misguided perception that graft, impropriety and even incompetence is synonymous only with the state.
This year, perhaps more than any other, has seen corporate giants such as KPMG and software firm SAP exposed as anything but infallible.
Perhaps most important to note is that their actions are not victimless.
The impact of the Steinhoff scandal alone is substantial.
Its domino effect runs across our economy, not least of all to public servants’ pensions.
This is why it must not go unaccounted for.