Billed as the next must watch documentary from Showmax, Steinheist joins an impressive line of other local productions the streaming giant has put its full weight behind. The three-part documentary series is based on the biggest corporate scam in Mzansi history and comes from the brilliant minds, Idea Candy, who also brought us the polarising Devilsdorp, another record-breaking Showmax Original that is now the most nominated documentary going into the South African Film and Television Awards.
Steinheist is a fantastic, enthralling and frustrating watch; frustrating not in a bad way but in disbelief of what we (as a society) allow to happen and ultimately how money (which ultimately equates to how much power and influence you possess in the general scheme of things) determines how you are treated and more importantly, what you’re allowed to get away with.
The story fully unraveled on 6 December 2017, after CEO Markus Jooste resigned amid an investigation into accounting irregularities, Steinhoff’s share price plunged by 90% in a week, wiping over R200 billion off Johannesburg’s stock exchange, JSE – and off ordinary South Africans’ pensions and investments. As Financial Mail editor Rob Rose says in the trailer, “That’s South Africa’s Enron.”
“Before the Steinhoff crash, the furniture giant was billed as ‘the Ikea of Africa’, employing over 130 000 people on over 40 brands across four continents,” says director Richard Finn Gregory, whose Patagonia-set feature documentary on Showmax, The Boers At The End of The World, won three SAFTAs in 2016. “Steinheist is the story of Markus Jooste and a hundred-billion-rand lie that everyone bought – a lie that was built across over two decades. How did this happen? How did no one see it coming? And how is Marcus Jooste not in jail?”.
Paced brilliantly from start to end, Steinheist is a gripping documentary complete with exclusive interviews and cameos from some of Mzansi’s big hitters in journalism including Rose, who wrote the book of the same name that the doc is adapted from, and Pieter du Toit, author of The Stellenbosch Mafia. BizNews editor Alec Hogg, Moneyweb managing editor Ryk van Niekerk, and award-winning financial journalist Fifi Peters also feature.
Also including footage of Jooste’s 2018 testimony before parliament, Steinheist provides a fascinating, insider glimpse into what Wiese describes in the trailer as “the Jooste black magic” and into a complex man who is described variously as “one of the best accountants ever in this country” (van Niekerk); as someone who was only interested in his business and in horse-racing (Hogg); as someone who “got addicted to the lifestyle, the money, the fame” (Thys du Toit); and as a “very clever, slick, and a very slippery operator” (Pieter du Toit).
Sharing similarities with How To Steal A Country, another brilliant and equally frustrating watch, Steinheist brought up similar feelings and got me thinking what it is we’re actually doing to change the current state of play and how certain individuals and entities continue to get away with atrocities with no blunt consequences. It’s documentaries like these that fully expose the level of corruption our country is gripped by.
The question is, when is it all going to end? Is it ever going to end? Unfortunately we won’t know the answers or at least say with firm conviction. At the very least, various efforts like Steinheist, How To Steal A Country and various similar ones help expose and bring it all to light, this however, needs to equate to various and hard punishments being dished out, without that, we (as a nation) are going nowhere slowly.
Steinheist drops and officially premieres on Showmax from 22 September 2022, with new episodes every Thursday until 6 October 2022. It’s in your best interest to watch it.
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