By Mashudu Netsianda
Former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela and his wife Nomagugu, were yesterday freed following the withdrawal of their fraud and extortion charges by the State.
The Mphokos were accused of hijacking the Choppies retail business and “looting” more than $80 000 in cash and goods.
Siqokoqela, who was a shareholder in the retail business and a non-executive director, is alleged to have abused his power to “loot” $50 000 in cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers.
Nomagugu allegedly bulldozed various Choppies outlets in Bulawayo and demanded cash.
She allegedly ordered 15 Choppies Supermarket managers in Bulawayo to unlawfully dispense more than $30 000 cash from their POS machines after threatening them with either deportation or dismissal.
She was facing 49 counts of extortion while her husband had 170 counts of fraud.
The charges against the Mphokos were yesterday officially withdrawn before plea before Bulawayo resident magistrate Mr Joseph Mabeza.
This follows Choppies chief executive officer Mr Ramachandran Ottapathu’s decision to withdraw fraud and extortion charges which were levelled against Siqokoqela and his wife.
In an affidavit signed on January 11, 2019, between Choppies Enterprises and the Mphoko family, it was resolved that Mr Athul Mohan, the chief operations manager for Choppies Zimbabwe appear in court to withdraw the two matters against Siqokoqela and Nomagugu.
The Mphokos have since exited Choppies Supermarkets after offering to be bought out of the company to end a protracted ownership wrangle.
At the height of their legal battles, Mr Ottapathu alleged that the Mphoko family owned only seven percent shareholding.
He said the other 44 percent was given to them to fulfil the indigenisation laws of the country.
However, the Mphokos’ lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube insisted that his clients held 51 percent of the shares.
The fight became messy when Siqokoqela and Nomagugu were dragged to court on charges of interfering with the operations of Choppies Distribution Centre and Choppies Enterprises.
This followed accusations that they swindled the businesses of a combined $80 000. The Chronicle