It’s far from the jaw-dropping disaster Steinhoff has been, but the apparent collapse of JSE-listed sugar producer Tongaat Hulett to a market capitalisation of a mere R4bn, from more than R12bn less than a year ago, hints at problems of a systemic nature. JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King, who is intent on rebuilding public trust in her institution, would do well to interrogate the roles of what she terms the guardians of governance (Gogs) in this value destruction. On the basis of what is known so far, the Gogs do not emerge well. Once included in the unwieldy Anglo American empire, which may explain some of the difficulties, Tongaat was for many years one of the equity market’s favourite food stocks. In recent times, the sale of some of its extremely valuable property near Durban has helped to counter the bottom-line impact of the declining fortunes of the sugar industry. This made Tongaat more a property than food company and helped to prop up the share price. But even as it sold off its...

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