Drive into Tongaat Hulett’s headquarters on Amanzimnyama Hill north of Durban, and it feels as if there’s been a death in the family. The day the FM visited, 100 staff took voluntary retrenchment packages, partly to curb runaway costs that couldn’t be sustained in an abysmal sugar market.

A recent copy of the FM sits on one of the antique tables in the cavernous reception area, the cover asking: "Tongaat: is this Steinhoff 2.0?" The three-course luncheons to which staff used to gravitate, at tables overlooking the cane fields, have been halted.

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