SOWETAN | Prosecution capacity needs boost

26 March 2024 - 10:15
Stock photo.
Image: 123RF Stock photo.

There are some who have candidly expressed doubt over whether fraudster Markus Jooste really died last week. 

It’s understandable. South Africans love a good conspiracy and, in a country, where truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, this thirst for intrigue is easy to fuel. 

But let’s be real. There is nothing credible to suggest that what the police have told us about his death is not true. 

What should rather be top of mind for all of us is the fact that it took seven years after the collapse of Steinhoff for the net to finally close in on him and secondly, what recourse is left to the state, little as it may be, in its pursuit of justice. 

Authorities have confirmed that just days before he took his life, Jooste had been informed of a warrant of arrest for him to appear in court last Friday. 

Considering the R475m fine slapped on him by Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) just days before, Jooste must have known that the game was over; he could not run anymore. 

Still, the once flamboyant horse breeding tycoon could not stand the humiliation of being dragged through the SA criminal justice system. 

In recent years Jooste had become the face of corporate greed and corruption in SA since his house of cards fell apart, wiping billions off the stock exchange. 

Importantly, he epitomised the prosecution authority’s inherent weaknesses and incapability to prosecute complex crimes, ultimately as a result of politicians who wrecked the institution. 

His death was his final act of defiance against a nation from which he stole unspeakable amounts of money.

It is also a cowardly escape from accountability. But it need not to be the end of this sordid chapter. 

We welcome the undertaking by authorities to go after what’s left of his estate to recoup money back to the state. 

We further welcome the prosecution of Steinhoff head of legal Stephan Grobler who appeared in court yesterday. 

There will never be appropriate justice for Jooste’s grand theft. 

But the government can and should ensure that it continues to build an investigative and prosecutions capacity to go after these crimes with reasonable speed and efficiency to restore public confidence in the system.