Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
FORMER Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela, has been arrested and remanded in custody after he violated bail conditions by harassing state witnesses.
Siqokoqela is facing 170 counts of fraud and theft.
He 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 (40), 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.
Bulawayo magistrate Ms Gladmore Mushove on Thursday revoked Siqokoqela’s bail before remanding him in custody to December 13 for trial.
The ruling by Ms Mushove follows an application for bail revocation by the State.
The State applied for the revocation of Siqokoqela’s bail, arguing that he interfered with its witnesses.
“The accused person violated his bail conditions by interfering with State witnesses. He threatened one witness with dismissal if he testified against him. He also threatened two other witnesses of Indian origin,” said the State.
The State summoned four witnesses, among them the investigating officer, to testify in support of its application for revocation of bail.
Siqokoqela, through his lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, said his committal to prison pending trial was a mere response to boardroom disputes in the company.
“It is submitted that on the facts there are no compelling reasons to deny the accused person his right to bail pending trial. The proven goings on in the company are a natural inevitable consequence of the disputes among shareholders and directors more so in circumstances where the complainant has acted unlawfully in denying accused person his salary and fuel allocation in a manner calculated to cause pain and provoke him,” said Prof Ncube.
Siqokoqela, who is a shareholder in the retail business and a non-executive director, is accused of abusing his power to “loot” cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers.
According to court papers, between July last year 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 was stated 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 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. — @mashnets.