Allegations that there was an orchestrated campaign by Bernard Mostert, Braam van Huyssteen and Star Speciality Fashion and Footwear COO Dawie van Niekerk to cripple the Tekkie Town retail chain they built so that they could buy it back at a discount price, are refuted in the affidavits responding to the Pep/Star interim interdict.
- Tekkie Town employee Werner de Bruin, who resigned but then changed his mind, claimed that the former executives held a mass meeting on 18 June to encourage staff to resign. He also claims that Van Huyssteen had been calling senior employees around this time, offering to guarantee their salaries if they resigned.
- However, instead of encouraging a mass-walkout of key staff members, Mostert tried his best to prevent 23 very angry senior staff members, who wanted Van Huyssteen back in the company and said they distrusted the ethics of the Pep/Star management, from resigning that day. He also says it has always been a tradition in the company for Van Huyssteen to phone any employee who resigns to say good-bye and establish the reasons, as he knew many of them personally.
- Mostert even went so far as to invite Pep/Star CEO Leon Lourens to George to try and dissuade the 23 employees from resigning on June 20th. The 44 staff members who attended the meeting were so hostile to Lourens that he had to be escorted out of the room. They convinced the employees to postpone their resignations for a week (till 27 June), during which time management would try and reach a settlement regarding their demands.
- Despite this, Wait was informed on June 25th by a subordinate, Corne Griessel, that he was replacing him as Chief Information Officer of Star Speciality Fashion and Footwear. Griessel asked for his assistance to better understand the system and his new role.
- The following day, on June 26th, Mostert and Van Niekerk resigned because they believed the business environment became too hostile for them to continue running the Star Speciality Fashion and Footwear division – and they were followed by 110-120 staff members in an unexpected and unprecedented mass walkout.
And the so-called Christian video allegedly shown to staff to psyche them up to walk out on June 21st? It was a video of a commemoration speech by Denzel Washington, telling students not to be discouraged by failure, but to try again if they failed. This was nothing sinister, as they showed a video to the staff on a weekly basis, says Mostert.
Apart from that, negotiations on the buy-back of Tekkie Town were well under way between himself, Lourens and later Jayendra Naidoo, Pep/Star chairman, says Mostert. “We agreed on a price – we were just discussing the currency.” It even continued between Van Huyssteen, Naidoo and Christo Wiese after the resignations.
In the meantime, more than 110 productive people, who ran key TT divisions, are now unemployed, says Mostert. The top managers feel responsible for them and are trying to find them some form of employment, for example by becoming involved in community projects in George. The twenty-odd who don’t live in George are flown in every couple of weeks to also take part in some of these projects.
And what about starting a Tekkie Two Two, or taking up industry offers to take over existing stores? “Not in the foreseeable future, we first have to get all the court cases behind us,” he says.
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