Regarding the data theft allegations levelled against the ex-Tekkie Town (ex-TT) executives in the interim interdict obtained by Pep/Star, it is necessary to understand the complex structures surrounding the Tekkie Town founder’s businesses.
Although Braam van Huyssteen’s business empire grew out of Tekkie Town (technically, his first Tropica store) he, and his close associates, now run 22 different businesses across a wide variety of industries – among them retail, farming, horse racing, hospitality, financial services, leasing, property ownership, etc.
Among the many properties owned by Van Huyssteen and related companies, is the campus in George. This consists of several buildings, with premises leased to various businesses, including a cafe, his 22 non-Tekkie Town businesses and Tekkie Town itself. Most of these businesses have access to a complex IT system housed on various servers on the premises – all ring-fenced, according to former IT head Willem Wait’s affidavit – and used the same Tekkie Town infrastructure.
Ever since he founded Tekkie Town, Van Huyssteen had conducted most of his business via his @tekkietown email. So did his trusted group of friends and associates – often referred to as his family or the Tekkie Town founders – who are also directors of, or worked for, many of these other companies.
They had disclosed to Steinhoff and Pep/Star that the @tekkietown emails were also used for non-Tekkie Town business. It was these emails and data related to other non-TT businesses that were copied to hard drives so that the people could operate off-site, Wait explained. This was after Nunanda Property Investment staff members were first prevented from entering their offices on June 27th, and then treated with hostility.
An employee, Werner De Bruin, who told Pep/Star that he was instructed to copy proprietary Tekkie Town data, actually offered to copy this non-TT data and store the hard drives at his premises. These eventually had to be retrieved from him via a court order. De Bruin was given a list of the data he needed to copy from the server – for example, accounting records – which all belonged to non-TT companies, Wait disclosed in his affidavit.
“We successfully argued that we were legally entitled to copies of our personal and business e-mail messages from the Tekkie Town servers,” says Mostert. “We used our e-mail addresses for all our business communications – from the earliest years when Tekkie Town started and long before Steinhoff appeared on the scene. These are big businesses valued at more than R2 billion and not related to Pepkor or their parent Steinhoff at all.”
They will destroy all emails relating to any TT business by 15 August, as instructed by the court.
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