Scan­dal ten­ta­cles reach deep in SA

The Herald (South Africa) - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

“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.

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