By Mashudu Netsianda
Former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela, has been freed from remand prison after successfully challenging the revocation of his bail by a Bulawayo magistrate at the High Court.
Siqokoqela (40), who is facing 170 counts of fraud and theft, had his bail revoked by Ms Gladmore Mushove about two weeks ago after being accused of violating bail conditions by harassing State witnesses.
He had been locked up at Bulawayo Prison for 10 days.
Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Thompson Mabhikwa, yesterday set aside the revocation of Siqokoqela’s bail.
The ruling by Justice Mabhikwa follows an appeal by Siqokoqela, through his lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers challenging the revocation of his bail pending trial citing the State as a respondent.
In reinstating his bail, Justice Mabhikwa said Siqokoqela can only communicate with State witnesses through his lawyers in consultation with the State counsel.
“The appeal is hereby allowed and the revocation of his bail pending trial is set aside. His bail is reinstated on the same conditions and if there is a need for the applicant to communicate with State witnesses he should do so through his lawyer who should consult the State,” ruled the judge.
The State, which was represented by Mr Nqobizitha Ndlovu, did not oppose the appeal.
Siqokoqela allegedly hijacked the Choppies retail business and “looted” more than $50 000 worth of cash and goods from the outlets countrywide without board approval.
Siqokoqela, who is director of Nanavac (Private) Limited, a partner to the Botswana-registered Choppies Distribution Centre (Proprietary) Limited, had been granted $200 bail on his initial court appearance before Bulawayo magistrate Nyaradzo Ringisai.
As part of the bail conditions, Siqokoqela of Hillside suburb in Bulawayo was supposed to reside at his given address and not interfere with State witnesses.
He, however, violated his bail conditions when he interfered with State witnesses and threatened to get some of the witnesses who are of Indian origin, deported.
In his bail statement, Siqokoqela denied interfering with one of the State witnesses, Mr Blessing Maphosa, arguing that he only had an issue with him after he denied him his fuel allocation.
In his grounds of appeal, Siqokoqela said the magistrate erred and misdirected herself by failing to appreciate that he had no reason to intimidate Maphosa from testifying against him, arguing that his evidence has already been admitted to in his warned and cautioned statement.
He also denied seeking the deportation of any witness, saying it had always been his view before his arrest and admission to bail that the permits of all Indian staff should not be renewed as their services were no longer required in the business.
The State applied for the revocation of Siqokoqela’s bail, arguing that he interfered with its witnesses.
He is accused of abusing his power to “loot” cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers.
It is alleged that between July 2017 and June this year, Siqokoqela proceeded to various Choppies supermarkets where he allegedly demanded varying amounts of cash, goods and services for various purposes from the employees without approval from the board.
He deceived the employees into believing that he was the one at the helm of Choppies Zimbabwe and had authority to demand or collect anything he wanted from the business.
He also told the employees that he had the authority to collect goods on a credit facility.
It is alleged that on different occasions, Siqokoqela collected cash, groceries and an assortment of building material and ordered personnel from the finance department not to deduct the money from his salary.
There were occasions when he also misrepresented that he intended to replace the money through swiping from Point of Sale (POS) machines.
Siqokoqela, by virtue of being a non-executive director, was entitled to a monthly gross salary of $10 000, company vehicle, fuel, telephone allowance and 3,53 percent of profit after tax as dividend at the end of each year.
Although he was not supposed to be directly involved in the day to day operations of the company, Siqokoqela allegedly masqueraded as the owner of the company in Zimbabwe and even threatened to either dismiss or deport employees of Indian origin for defying his orders.
The matter came to light in May 2018 when the Botswana based Choppies group chief executive officer, Mr Ottapathu Ramachandran, discovered that there were a
series of financial imbalances while going through the company’s management accounting books.
It was discovered that the company was prejudiced of $51 945, 53.
The matter was reported to the police and investigations were conducted leading to Siqokoqela’s arrest and nothing was recovered. The Chronicle