Mphoko, Welshman Ncube trial set for 24 May Professor Welshman Ncube

Peter Matika, [email protected]

THE court case between former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela, and Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) interim vice president, Professor Welshman Ncube, where the former is accusing the latter of theft of trust funds, has been postponed to May 24, as the High Court kicked off its second term last week.

The case, which is among some of the most high profile civil cases to be heard in the High Court, has been raging since last year.

The Mphokos are accusing the opposition leader of squandering part of US$2,9 million they got as shares from Choppies Enterprises after they were bought out of the company a few years ago.

According to summons filed at the Bulawayo High Court under case number HC 2906/19, the Mphokos want an order directing Prof Ncube to pay them about US$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, Prof Ncube, was cited as a defendant. However, last year Siqokoqela wrote to the Law Society of Zimbabwe appealing to the regulatory body of lawyers in the country to compel Prof Ncube to produce bank statements from his law firm, with reference to funds he received under trust from Choppies Enterprises on their behalf. Prof Ncube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers represented the Mphokos before they ditched him for Mr Zibusiso Ncube of Ncube and Partners.

In a letter dated January 17, 2023, Siqokoqela said Prof Ncube, by virtue of being an officer of the law, breached the trust of attorney and client in violation of the ethics of the legal profession.

Siqokoqela said Prof Ncube confirmed to him that he received on his behalf, the full amount from Choppies Enterprises. 

“Upon request, he (Prof Ncube) only paid me US$280 000 of my 25,5 percent shares from the amount transferred to Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers trust account,” he stated in his letter.

Siqokoqela said 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 Mphokos and Choppies on January 11, 2019, received the money.

He said as per the agreement, Prof Ncube was supposed to get US$100 000 for his legal services. 

“Despite demand, Welshman Ncube has failed, neglected and refused to pay me. I have also taken this matter to the High Court in Bulawayo and the matter under case number HC2906/19 is awaiting trial,” he said.

“I am appealing to the Law Society of Zimbabwe to compel Welshman Ncube to produce bank statements with reference to the funds under trust from Choppies Enterprises on my behalf in terms of the laws of the country.”

Siqokoqela said at the time of receiving US$2,9 million from Choppies Enterprise, Prof Ncube was their family lawyer between January and February 2019, before they had a fallout.

“At all material times, I was a 25,5 percent shareholder in Nanavac Investments trading as Choppies Zimbabwe. The amount of money received by Ncube in trust involved a transaction where I was pressured to dispose of my shares in exchange for the withdrawal of fake criminal charges against me and my wife,” he said.

The Mphokos exited Botswana-based Nanavac Investments, trading as Choppies Supermarkets Zimbabwe, in January 2019 after offering to be bought out of the company to end a protracted ownership wrangle.

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, who at the time represented the Mphokos, insisted that his clients held 51 percent of the shares.

The fight took a nasty turn 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 US$80 000.

Siqokoqela, who was a shareholder in the retail business and a non-executive director, was accused of abusing his power to “loot” US$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. 


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