BULAWAYO – Siqokoqela Mphoko, the son of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, has been released from remand prison after the Bulawayo High Court reversed a decision to revoke his bail.
The 40-year-old, a non-executive director in the supermarket chain, Choppies, was freed on Monday after spending 10 days in jail.
He faces 170 counts of fraud and theft from Choppies. His lawyers say he is a victim of a nasty boardroom battle for the control of Choppies Zimbabwe.
Bulawayo magistrate Gladmore Mushove had revoked Mphoko’s bail after he was accused of violating his bail conditions by harassing State witnesses.
The magistrate then remanded him to January 21.
But his lawyers, Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, went to the High Court to challenge the decision to send him to prison until the end of his trial.
Prosecutors say said Siqokoqela, being a shareholder and director of Nanavac Investments Private Limited trading as Choppies Zimbabwe, deceived employees that he was entitled to receive certain amounts of money and services.
As a non-executive director, prosecutors say he was only entitled to a gross salary of $10,000 per month, his children’s school fees in full, a company vehicle, monthly fuel for the company vehicle, 3.53 percent of profits after tax as divided at the end of each year and a telephone allowance.
There was no requirement that he has to report for duty at all.
But on various dates, Siqokoqela, without board authority or agreement with any of the shareholders or directors and without seeking their consent, allegedly proceeded to various supermarkets of Choppies Zimbabwe where he demanded for and received cash, goods or services with the value of $51,945.53.
The state argues that he did this by deceiving the employees into believing he was the one in charge of Choppies Zimbabwe and had the authority to demand or collect anything he so wished from the business and that he could collect goods on a credit facility which was itself a misrepresentation.
Choppies Zimbabwe is a partnership between Nanavac Investments, a company owned by the former Vice President and his son, and the Choppies Group headquartered in Botswana. The Mphokos hold a 51 percent stake and the Choppies Group a 49 percent stake in the business – but this is now under dispute.
Ramachanda Mottoba, the Choppies Group chief executive officer, has claimed the Mphokos were in reality given seven percent shareholding for free and the other 44 percent was a cover to comply with the country’s indigenisation laws.
With Mphoko now out of power, and with the indigenisation regulations set to be relaxed, the Botswana shareholders reckon he is weakened and it is time to take control. But the former Vice President has indicated his willingness to fight on.