Markus Jooste, former CEO of Steinhoff. Picture: JEREMY GLYN
Markus Jooste, former CEO of Steinhoff. Picture: JEREMY GLYN

At the construction site of what was Markus Jooste’s newest Hermanus property acquisition, a sign in capital letters reads unequivocally: "NO ENTRY".

One of the conditions of the sale of the land to Jooste was that he was forbidden from obstructing the view.

This was quite thoughtful of the previous owners, because if Jooste builds houses in the same way he delivers annual reports, the neighbourhood would be treated to something that resembled a game of caravan Tetris.

While it is important to spare a thought for pension beneficiaries, who with their families might have taken a bus to Grotto beach on New Year’s Day and caught passing sight of it from the window, London is also looking at the extensions of the phrase NO ENTRY in the wake of the resignation of Steinhoff’s chief financial officer, Ben le Grange.

It appears that many South Africans have taken too seriously the rubbish that was Jooste’s last note to employees, in which he talks about "living the Steinhoff dream" and makes the startling claim that none of the executive had "anything to do with his mistakes".

"He had no idea of what was going on," someone said. It’s these sympathisers who are responsible for the populist conflation, beloved by ANN7, of Johann Rupert being a member — or even the head — of the "Stellenbosch mafia". Rupert is nothing of the sort and never has been. I’ve said it before; he doesn’t need anyone to defend him, least of all me. But associating him with people like Jooste and Le Grange is exactly the same as accusing someone like Mavuso Msimang of thinking and behaving in the same way as Faith Muthambi.

There has been increasing talk, and there will hopefully be more talk, of even institutional asset, credit and risk managers being denied entry when it came to Steinhoff, in a style of correspondence that appears to be systematic.

The stories that are emerging involve confrontations between fund managers and Steinhoff executive personnel, where the former would ask perhaps the same kinds of questions that the firm Viceroy in the US did.

The response to these questions was just brazen aggression: Steinhoff executives would then approach the executives employing the risk or compliance managers and complain about the scrutiny. The result appears to have been this awkward, irreconcilable coupling of fear and obedience that could only ever have ended in complete disaster.

Little is known about Viceroy and they like it that way. I like to think of them as a small group of smart, Bill Bryson-looking types shaking their heads at numbers on screens and sometimes laughing out loud. They wouldn’t have been scared of being shouted at by people in Stellenbosch — but I can assure you that expensively educated young Europeans working in London banks are.

If there is any good to be extracted from this mess, it will be revealed in the form of a deeper understanding similar to what has happened to the ANC: that you cannot just associate men like Russell Loubser or Adrian Gore with "white monopoly capital".

If you’re going to scream and shout about the behaviour of people associated with Hlaudi Motsoeneng, then you must be prepared to do the same when it comes to the conduct of people associated with Christo Wiese.

This collectivist nonsense that seeks to compare white corruption and ANC corruption and concludes no distinction should not have been entertained at all. What you really hope to find here, eventually, is only a fair analysis that addresses each feature of a calamity individually and to be informed to a point where no bullying can impede judgment.

Reader works for an energy investment and political advisory firm.