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Tongaat Hulett has been around in various guises since the late 1800s, growing into a company that came to dominate several aspects of the KwaZulu-Natal economy. Not only does it employ about 40,000 people during the peak sugar milling season (although not all in SA), it also provides economic opportunities in the province. Its dominance in a regional economy in which the expanded unemployment rate is 42.4% is perhaps part of the reason former key executives could conduct the company's affairs with what now seems to be grossly inadequate scrutiny and care.

Towns on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, where land owned by Tongaat was sold to develop Mount Edgecombe, Umhlanga Ridge and Zimbali, as well as Tongaat - site of the company's head office - are small. And small-town mentality extends to Durban, where a one-time JSE heavyweight seems to have wielded outsized influence. Tongaat's relationships with the city - whose coffers have been boosted by the conversion of agricultural la...

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