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Mphoko sues Welshman . . . US$1,5 million from Choppies ‘squandered’

By Mashudu Netsianda

Former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko and his son, Siqokoqela, have taken their former lawyer, Professor Welshman Ncube to court for allegedly squandering part of the US$2,9 million they got as shares from Choppies Enterprises after they were bought out of the company.

Welshman Ncube
Professor Welshman Ncube

The Mphokos exited Botswana-based Nanavac Investments, trading as Choppies Supermarkets Zimbabwe, in January after offering to be bought out of the company to end a protracted ownership wrangle.

The Mphokos through their lawyer, Mr Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners, yesterday filed summons at the Bulawayo High Court citing Prof Ncube of Mathonsi Law Chambers as a defendant.

They want an order directing the MDC Alliance vice-president to pay them about $1,5 million being the outstanding balance of the money they received as shares from Choppies including a five percent interest calculated from January 16, 2019 to the date of full payment.

In papers before the court, it was stated that between January 1-9 this year, Prof Ncube, who at the time was the Mphokos’ lawyers, received US$2,9 million from Choppies on behalf of his clients and was also a signatory in a settlement agreement.

“Prof Ncube while acting in his capacity as their attorney under a contract of mandate and having separately been contracted to do so in a written addendum to a settlement agreement signed between the plaintiffs, Choppies and him on January 11, 2019 received the money,” said Mr Ncube.

At all material times, the plaintiffs were shareholders in Choppies Enterprise and the sums of money in question were received by the defendant in trust as consideration in a transaction wherein the plaintiffs were pressured to purportedly dispose of their shares in exchange for a withdrawal of criminal charges against second plaintiff (Siqokoqela) and his wife, Nomagugu.

Mr Ncube said Prof Ncube confirmed to his clients that he received the full amount from Choppies on their behalf.

Prof Ncube, however, only paid the Mphokos about $1, 24 million

The Mphokos said despite demand, Prof Ncube has failed, neglected and refused to pay the balance.

“Wherefore, the plaintiffs pray for a judgment against the defendant to pay the sum of $832 500 to the first plaintiff (Phelekezela Mphoko) and $619 708,50 to the second plaintiff (Siqokoqela) as well as payment of five percent interest on the amounts,” said the Mphokos.

They also want Prof Ncube to pay the legal costs.

Prof Ncube is yet to respond to the summons.

In January, Prof Ncube told The Chronicle that the Mphokos were going to be paid for 51 percent shareholding but could not state the amount of money involved.

At the height of their legal battles, Choppies Enterprises’ chief executive officer, Mr Ramachandran 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, Prof Ncube insisted that the Mphokos held 51 percent of the shares.

The fight became messy when Siqokoqela and his wife 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.

Siqokoqela, who was shareholder in the retail business and a non-executive director, was accused of abusing his power to “loot” $50 000 in cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers.

Nomagugu was facing 49 counts of extortion after allegedly bulldozing various Choppies outlets in Bulawayo and demanding cash.

The two matters under case numbers CRB Byo 2431/18 and CRB Byo 2567/18 were subsequently withdrawn. This was after Mr Ramachandran submitted an affidavit to the prosecution withdrawing charges against Siqokoqela and Nomagugu. The Chronicle