Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE trial of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s son, Siqokoqela, has been postponed to January 21 next year.
He is being accused of hijacking the Choppies retail business and “looting” more than $50 000 worth of cash and goods from the outlets countrywide without board approval.
Siqokoqela (40), who is facing 170 counts of fraud and theft, appeared before Bulawayo regional magistrate Mr Trynos Utawashe yesterday and was further remanded in custody pending trial.
The trial dates have been set as 21 January to 24 January 2019.
Siqokoqela was clad in prison garb and also in leg irons when he appeared in court yesterday.
He had his bail revoked by Ms Gladmore Mushove last week for violating bail conditions by harassing State witnesses.
Siqokoqela, a director of Nanavac Pvt Ltd, 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.
Siqokoqela has since filed an application at the High Court challenging the revocation of his bail.
He is accused of abusing his power to “loot” cash realised from sales at different supermarkets and replacing it with transfers.
Prosecuting, Mr Jethro Mada said between July 2017 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.
“The accused person 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,” he said.
It is alleged 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,” said Mr Mada.
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 anomalies 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