“No, Markus hasn’t been here . . . At least, I don’t think he has . . .”
That’s the standard response from neighbours and residents of Hermanus in the Western Cape.
The coastal town in the Overberg is where Markus Jooste and his family came to recharge over the previous December holiday.
“Other years we’d see him regularly, but not this year,” says one neighbour who lives across the entrance to Jooste’s house, which takes up an entire block between 10th and 11th Avenue.
“Until now he’s been a pleasant neighbour. Then he did the dirty on us. I hope you find him and tie him up,” says the English woman who’s lived here for more than a decade.
“Last night someone tried getting in through the gate, but couldn’t.” Just like all the other people YOU talked to, she doesn’t want to be named.
“Hermanus is a small town,” she explains.
“There was a lot of movement [at the house] but I don’t know if it was him and his wife.” Another neighbour’s daughter confirms this. She’s a student, visiting her parents for the holiday.
“We know what he looks like,” she says. “I didn’t see him myself, but there were cars there the whole time.” Her parent’s home is a double storey, so they’re able to see what’s happening behind his property’s walls.
“Someone spray-painted the word ‘thief’ on that wall but this morning they painted over it,” the young woman tells us. At one stage someone also spray-painted “con artist”.
Today only a white Volkswagen Polo is parked at the house. Nobody opens when we ring the bell. To one side of the house, washing has been hung out to dry.
Jooste is the disgraced former CEO of Steinhoff International, which is hovering on the brink of ruin after financial discrepancies came to light. Billions of rands have been lost so far, including hard-earned pension money which had been invested in the company.
In Germany the company books are being investigated for possible fraud and corruption and auditing firm Deloitte have refused to sign off the company’s annual results. Experts agree everything’s not above board.
Many investors in the company are pulling out their hair, even though the share price increased in the beginning of 2018 with a massive 90% – from an all-time low of R5 a share to around R8,80. Steinhoff has announced in a statement that some of its businesses would have to be liquidated, Afrikaans newspaper Rapport reported.
Where the popular Cliff Path in Hermanus used to be there’s now a vacant lot. The ground has been evened to prepare for the foundations of a home.
When asked about it, one of the subcontractors told us on the phone: “We are . . . were building a house there. The project’s been halted. I don’t want to say any more about the matter.”
The locals weren’t happy at all with the development. Upon our visit to the huge site in Sea Way, there was a sign on the gate reading, “No dust, please.”
In the distant waves two orcas were cavorting in the waves – a rare sight in Hermanus.
At the coffee shop where Markus and his wife, Ingrid, used to have coffee and croissants while on holiday here, the manager says he hasn’t seen them at all this year. “For a while it was the only thing anyone around here talked about. But now it’s old news,” he adds.
And the waiters at an upmarket restaurant in the Voëlklip neighbourhood where the Joostes’ holiday home is tell the same story. “I’ve served him before and know his name and face. But this holiday? He never came.”
There are rumours that the luxury apartment in Bantry Bay, Cape Town, where Markus’ alleged lover, Berdine Odendaal, lives, has been put on the market for a whopping R57 million.
But upon further investigation one estate agent told us, “We don’t give out such information.” He would neither confirm nor deny the rumour.
Some of the pictures of the view from the apartment that Berdine posted on her Facebook page – which has since been deleted – are very similar to the views from an apartment that’s for sale with Seeff. The advertisement appears to have been removed.
PHOTOS: Misha Jordaan