South Africa

Durban July

Steinhoff former boss Markus Jooste’s horses banned from SA’s biggest race

On 4 July the Public Servants Association (PSA) revealed it had received assurance from the National Horse Racing Authority (NHRA) that ex-Steinhoff boss Markus Jooste’s horses will not take part in the Durban July on 7 July.

Last week the PSA sent letters to both race sponsor Vodacom and the NHRA demanding that Markus Jooste’s horses not be allowed to take part in the event.

The PSA argued that Jooste would make millions if his horses participated.

It said this was “unconscionable” given that Jooste was instrumental in what has been called “accounting irregularities” at Steinhoff International Holding which lost billions of rand of public servants’ pensions invested through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) on behalf of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF).

Company records indicate that former chief executive Jooste oversaw a series of transactions in which apparently dubious decisions were made by the South African retailer.

Jooste quit as head of Steinhoff International Holdings NV in December 2017 amid the scandal.

Jooste was summoned to appear before Parliament a few times to give evidence on the collapse of the company’s share price, which happened on his watch. He is set to appear before a number of parliamentary committees.

Confirming correspondence with both Vodacom and NHRA, the PSA said:

Both Vodacom and NHRA wrote to the PSA and confirmed that no horses under Jooste’s colours are currently registered with the NHRA and therefore his horses will not be participating in the Vodacom Durban July.”

The PSA, which represents over 240,000 public servants that belong to the GEPF, said given the assurance from Vodacom and NHRA, it would call off its intended protest march at the Greyville course on race day.

But the association said its resolve to hold Jooste and the executive of Steinhoff accountable for the loss of public service employees’ investments still stands.

The PSA said it had a responsibility to members and the nation to use whatever legal means to recoup the losses and to play a bigger part in rooting out corruption and maladministration.

On 4 July Vodacom distanced itself from the decision to exclude Jooste’s horses. The company said that as the main sponsor it was not privy to decisions regarding who participates in the race.

As headline sponsor of the Vodacom Durban July, Vodacom does not get involved in the decision-making process with regards to the horses that participate on the day,” a Vodacom spokeswoman, Lexi Ball, said.

Apart from being a director of the company which represented his horse racing interests, Mayfair Spectaculars, Jooste also partly owned the largest horse breeding farm in the country, Klawervlei Stud.

Jooste joined Steinhoff in 1988, and took most of the credit for turning the company into a global success. The father of three graduated from Stellenbosch University as a chartered accountant. He completed his honours degree at the University of Cape Town.

Members of the PSA lost R17-billion in pension fund investment through Steinhoff. We believe that Markus Jooste and all the directors of Steinhoff should be held accountable, and that Jooste cannot continue to benefit in any way until his issues in relation to Steinhoff are dealt with,” the PSA’s Tahir Maepa said.

While reports on July 4 suggested that Jooste’s horses were deregistered a while ago, PSA assistant general manager Leon Gilbert insisted that it was unfair to allow Jooste’s horses to run.

It is unfair to allow horses belonging to Mr Markus Jooste to compete in such a high-profile event and to allow him the opportunity to make millions while our members and people in South Africa incurred huge losses in their investments and pension benefits as a direct result of his financial mismanagement of Steinhoff,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said even though it was difficult for the association to determine how much Jooste would gain from participation of his horses in the Durban July, it is a fact that stakes are high at the event.

The PSA will continue to object to Jooste’s participation until an investigation is concluded exonerating him, and until all the losses have been returned to the Government Employee Pension Fund.” DM