Book tells the story of powerful clique of white Afrikaner businessmen who reside in the winelands.

The much anticipated launch of the book, The Stellenbosch Mafia: Inside the Billionaires Club, took place at Exclusive Books in Hyde Park on Tuesday, August 8.

The audience was reflective of the Stellenbosch population with the majority of the attendees being white. Wine and finger-foods were served and the atmosphere was one of opulence and privilege.

“Before we start, someone I don’t want to name has blocked me on Twitter, so no, he is not happy about the book,” said author, Pieter Du Toit. The audience roared with laughter seemingly in the know of who Du Toit was talking about.

“When I approached [Remgro chairman Johann] Rupert with the idea of the book he was very interested and expected a rehabilitation of his image, which was unfairly tainted after 2016/17 with the very successful Bell Pottinger scandal (when the British PR firm allegedly fabricated stories about Rupert at the behest of the Gupta family),” said Du Toit.

“Rupert expected an uncritical appraisal of him and that is not the route I took,” said Du Toit.

The term ‘mafia’ denotes a criminal syndicate involved in various illegal activities, but Du Toit discussed how the term ‘Stellenbosch Mafia’ was initially used by financial journalists in the early 2000s to refer to magnates from the Boland area such as Rupert.

The term gained popularity after the collapse of international retail holding company, Steinhoff, in December 2017, following irregularities in the company’s financial statements. Parties such as the EFF and Black First, Land First (BLF) started using ‘white monopoly capital’ and “Stellenbosch Mafia” interchangeably.

“This ‘mafia’ is a fascinating subject to investigate, even more so after the scandalous demise of Steinhoff and its flamboyant chief executive, Markus Jooste, the quintessential inkommer (newcomer),” said Du Toit.

In his book, Du Toit describes ‘inkommers’ as residents of Stellenbosch who do not originate from the wineland area and whose wealth was only recently acquired.

According to Du Toit, the mafia is a tight-knit group that is not very welcoming to ‘inkommers’ as they regard themselves as old money, having benefitted from their ancestral ties to the Afrikaner Broederbond.

Other billionaires featured in the book are Mediclinic’s Edwin Hertzog, Koos Bekker of Naspers, Whitey Basson of Shoprite and the Capitec Bank trio of Jannie Mouton, Riaan Stassen and Michiel le Roux.

Veteran journalist, Ferial Haffajee, who was in discussion with Du Toit, said that even though there isn’t a ‘mafia’ she likens the phenomenon to the Russian oligarchs who became very wealthy from their access to a biased political system.

“From the book, Rupert seems like he believes he is a self-made man. It does not seem like the ‘mafia’ is reflective about how their wealth was aided by apartheid,” Haffajee said.

In response to this, Du Toit said he tried to engage Rupert on apartheid to get his views on the advantages that Remgro (investment holding company founded by Rupert’s father Anton Rupert) had due to the family’s proximity to the National Party.

“Anton was the embodiment of Afrikaner success in the business world but Johann Rupert was very reluctant to discuss that topic,” he told the audience.

Neurosurgeon, Ntuse Mpanza, who was in the audience asked whether there was any truth to the allegations of EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu visiting Rupert.

“The EFF and Floyd in particular, goes to Stellenbosch all the time. In fact he has had multiple visits with Rupert and GT Ferreira of FirstRand Bank to discuss business deals,” Du Toit responded.

“I don’t know what the status of that relationship is now but we all know what Shivambu tells us in the morning is much different from what happens in the evening,” said Du Toit.

The Stellenbosch Mafia: Inside the Billionaires Club is published by Jonathan Ball Publishers and remains the company’s number one best-seller for the third week in a row.


FEATURED IMAGE: Pieter Du Toit and Ferial Haffajee in discussion at the launch of The Stellenbosch Mafia: Inside the Billionaires Club in Hyde Park on Tuesday, August 8.  Photo: Anathi Madubela