Once upon a time, Stellenbosch took great pride in having the Steinhoff company headquarters in the Western Cape town best known for its elite university, surrounding wine farms and super-wealthy residents. The town was also quick to sing the praises of the man who turned Steinhoff into a global giant, former CEO Markus Jooste.
But according to Moneyweb, however, following the scandal that resulted in Jooste's resignation and the Steinhoff share price collapsing, it appears the town is quietly erasing all traces of the company and the man they believe embarrassed their affluent enclave.
"People are cheesed off – He's lost a lot of people money; a lot of pensioners, too." – Heather Steel, quoted in Moneyweb.
Jooste is persona non grata socially, too. Cape Town's Kenilworth Racecourse hosted the usual glitzy crowd for South Africa's oldest horse race, the Sun Met, last Saturday, but five-time Owner of the Year Jooste was conspicuous by his absence. He most likely spared himself some public rancour by skipping the race.
Racegoer Heather Steel, 58, told a reporter: "People are cheesed off – he's lost a lot of people money; a lot of pensioners, too."
Legal Eagle, the racehorse that finished second in last year's Met and was once owned by a company Jooste used to manage, finished fourth in Saturday's race. His former owner's drop in the local rankings has been more severe.
According to TimesLive, Jooste was described as "a man of integrity" who "I would not have expected to do anything against the law" by founder and former executive chair of the JD Group David Sussman, who has known him for 30 years.
Despite Sussman's faith, however – and despite the disgraced former CEO once being the major impetus behind Steinhoff's development into a global retailing giant that enhanced the town's image and reputation – the Moneyweb story reports that signs of Jooste and Steinhoff's presence, once seen all over Stellenbosch, are being quietly erased.
This is no easy task, in a town literally infested with the Steinhoff corporate colours and branding. Stellenbosch University (SU), a prime example, was once a riot of burgundy – it had everything from Steinhoff rugby posts at the Danie Craven Stadium to the corporate branding on scoreboards, stands, tickets and athletes' uniforms.
With Steinhoff sponsorship for SU sport cut abruptly after the share plunge, the university has hurriedly removed or covered up all this branding.
Both Jooste and former Steinhoff chair Christo Wiese are SU alumni – but you wouldn't have thought so, watching the haste with which Steinhoff advertising was masked with a black cloth at the university's cricket field, just moments before first-year students arrived to be welcomed by the rector.
"Just because one company may be up to no good, it doesn't mean the whole town is corrupt and rotten"– Rob Barrie, quoted in Moneyweb.
The company's woes are doubly irksome to long-time natives of Stellenbosch, who believe the scandal is the fault of carpetbagging "outsiders" who moved in for easy pickings, and not a true reflection of the town.
"I don't think what has happened at Steinhoff is a true reflection of what the town actually is," said Rob Barrie, a 63-year old dentist quoted by Moneyweb. "Just because one company may be up to no good, it doesn't mean the whole town is corrupt and rotten."
"Steinhoff had a very good name in Stellenbosch," said Shaun Scheepers, a 37-year-old radiologist who owned Steinhoff shares and is joining his friends in a class-action suit. "But the trust has been eroded."