Thursday, February 29, 2024

The battle for the soul of Choppies Zimbabwe continues

Zimbabwean rich and powerful Mphoko family has confirmed its intentions to disinvest from Choppies retail business in that country following a fall-out with Botswana shareholders amongst them Chief Executive Ramachandran Ottapathu.

In an interview, Siqokoqela Mphoko,  son to former Zimbabwe Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who is a director of Nanavac Investments (Private) Limited, a local partner for the Botswana-registered Choppies Distribution Centre (Proprietary) Limited revealed that the relationship between the two parties has broken down irreparably.

The board room brawl escalated this week as Choppies Distribution Centre Pty Ltd represented by Ramachandran dragged Siqokoqela Mphoko before a Bulawayo Magistrate Court facing fraud charges.

In an interview, Ram confirmed that his company and business partners have serious issues which are currently before the Courts.”

He would not be drawn into further details stating that the matter was prejudice.

According to information obtained by Sunday Standard, Ram accuses Mphoko of telling staff at Nanavac Investments that he is entitled to certain benefits which he is not. Ottapa also argues that Mphoko is not the Executive Director of Nanavac Investments and he (Ram) is the group Chief Executive Officer of Choppies Enterprises and therefore he is also the Chief Executive Officer of Nanavac Investments.

While Ram allegedly admits that Mphoko is the major shareholder and has total control of Nanavac Investments, he also argues that the latter has no role to play in the operations of the business and he is not the Executive Director of the company.

Mphoko accused Ram of ‘slapping’ him with trumped up charges.

He said ever since Nanavac was set up in 2013 the Board of Directors has never met.

 “They say I told staff information that constitutes misrepresentation; that I’m the director of the company. They should show me who the other directors or shareholders of Nanavac Investments are,” he said. He also accused Ram of ‘putting pressure’ on him so that he could sell his shares.

“But I’m not going to do that. Ram was in Harare this week talking to politicians. That is going not change the fact that I’m going fire Choppies,” he said.

He added that “whether I’m in jail I can still fire them. We are done. Ram knows that we are busy negotiating with another retailer. We are canceling their contract. How is he going to explain that to shareholders?”

Mphoko further stated that “That is why he is running to court. He is fired. The new investors are coming here next week Wednesday and Ram knows we are firing them; it is not going to help him by running to court. Choppies if finished in Zimbabwe. It is done. Nanavac Investments is owned by us.  I no longer want to work with him (Ottapa).”

Initially Ram had approached the High Court accusing Mphoko of abusing his power to “loot” cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers. But Mphoko denied the charges this week saying Ram was the one who was ‘looting’ cash from Nanavac Investments to boost sales in South Africa as the retail business in that country was not performing well.

“They failed at the High Court and now they decided to come to the Magistrate Court. When they saw that my defence at the High Court is heavy, they decided to approach the magistrate court. They owe us millions in dividends. They have taken money from us to boost South Africa because that side is not doing well,” he said.


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