A leaked Tekkie Town letter to the CEO of Steinhoff Africa Retail (Star) has revealed a clash of cultures.
In a tumultuous few days at Star’s Speciality division, its CEO, Bernard Mostert, has resigned and the company has been served notice of eviction at its national distribution centre.
These developments sent Star’s share price more than 4% lower on Tuesday.
Business Day has seen a copy of a message sent by the chief information officer to Star CEO Leon Lourens.
Many of the problems that came to a head on Monday evening — when Mostert led a mass walkout at the company — stem from the deteriorating relationship between Tekkie Town founder Braam van Huyssteen and the executive of Star led by Lourens.
This was aggravated by Star’s failure to recognise the terms of a bonus scheme agreed to between then Steinhoff CEO Markus Jooste and Van Huyssteen at the time Steinhoff acquired Tekkie Town in 2016.
The message — written by Tekkie Town’s erstwhile chief information officer, Willem Wait, who resigned in protest on Monday evening in solidarity with Mostert and chief operating officer Dawie van Niekerk — was in response to an overture by Lourens to get him to return to work to keep the business running.
According to Wait, Lourens — desperate to stem the effect of the walkout — indicated he could "name his price".
In a politely worded message sent on Wednesday morning declining the offer, Wait said that being part of the Tekkie Town culture was more important to him than continuing as a hired gun. The message gives clues to the reasons so many individuals decided to follow Mostert out the door.
Employees clearly identify with the familial culture established by Van Huyssteen.
Following the mass resignations on Monday evening, Van Huyssteen told Business Day that he would undertake to financially assist every one of his previous employees until he has personally run out of money, and views the employees of the company he founded as part of his extended family.
Having spent 11 years at Tekkie Town, Wait writes: "It was over these years that I’ve learned that Tekkie Town is not the shoes, or the branches, nor the building, but the individuals that worked, stressed and sacrificed alongside me in order to fulfil a purposeful life and provide for their families."
Wait said the culture of the organisation that he so strongly identified with had now left with the people who resigned in solidarity with Mostert and Van Huyssteen over the course of Monday and Tuesday — now amounting to more than 100 people.
"It is those individuals that … through their input, willingness and effort, (formed) a culture that can only exist when they come, stay and stand together. It is that culture I belong to and it is that … I want to stay part of till my time here is done.…" If Wait’s feelings resonate with the rest of the employees who have left the company, Star might soon find a formidable competitor if Van Huyssteen does indeed decide to launch a competitor to rival the business he founded and ultimately sold to Steinhoff in 2016.