Zimbabwe: Mphokos Squirm Over Troubles

Former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko's family has complained of harassment and victimisation by political opponents in a bid to humiliate them following the November 2017 coup that saw their bouncy father being turned into an ordinary citizen overnight.

Mphoko's daughter, Siduduzo - a medical doctor - took to social media networking Facebook site to reveal the family's frustrations over the alleged victimisation, saying "we are officially fed up".

The development comes at a time government is refusing to pay Mphoko his pension since his ouster from Zanu PF and government following former president Robert Mugabe's removal from office last year.

Government says Mphoko does not deserve his full benefits as he did not serve a full term in line with Statutory Instrument 86 of 2015 that states only a VP who served at least one term in office can enjoy exit packages such as security aides, an office, telephone, secretary and domestic workers in line with the constitution.

Since Mphoko's removal from office, his family has been dragged to court facing various kinds of charges, some criminal and all related to a nasty ownership wrangle for control of the Choppies supermarket retail business.

Mphoko's Botswana-registered Choppies Distribution Centre (Proprietary) Limited business partners fronted by former president Festus Mogae argue the family has no majority controlling equity in the business.

Mphoko and his son Siqokoqela insist they are the majority shareholders of Choppies Zimbabwe through their local investment vehicle, Nanavac, with 51%.

However, the Botswana-headquartered business says the Mphokos are entitled to only 7% shares donated to them for agreeing to be fronts.

Choppies group chief executive officer (CEO) Ottapathu Ramachandran insists the Mphokos never paid a cent for the shares, but were "greased with the shares" to circumvent the controversial indigenisation laws before they were changed.

The Mphokos' business partners are demanding US$94 million to cede controlling sharers to the family.

The matter is pending in the local courts.

Recently, Mphoko's son Siqokoqela and his wife Nomagugu were dragged to court on charges of interfering with the operations of the business and swindling the businesses of a combined US$80 000 as the fight for the retail giant intensifies.

Last week, a Bulawayo magistrate revoked Siqokoqela's bail conditions and sent him to remand prison pending trial over the 170 counts of fraud and theft charges he faces.

Magistrate Gladmore Mushowe found him guilty of harassing state witnesses in violation of his bail conditions before sending him to remand prison.

Siqokoqela, through the family lawyer Welshman Ncube of Mathonsi Ncube Law Chambers, on Tuesday applied to the High Court for the overturning of his bail revocation.

In an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, Ncube said the flurry of charges against the Mphokos were all curious.

"There is nothing (pension) at the moment because we have been concentrating on the criminal cases before the courts. All I can say is that it is curious that so many legal proceedings have been deployed against them in one way or the other," Ncube said.

Siduduzo in her Facebook post claimed some political opponents were out to humiliate the family, but Ncube said: "I have no evidence of any political conspiracy" before blaming Mphoko's business partners of "working day and night" to harass and hound the family out of Choppies.

Mphoko -- who used to throw his political weight around -- has alleged that his opponents were taking advantage of his position as an ordinary citizen to hound them out of the Choppies business.

"I can definitely say that much of this thing is the work of their Indian partners in Choppies and what the motivation of those Indian partners is, I am not in a position to say, but they are the ones who are working day and night against the fellow shareholders in Choppies when in fact there is really no substantive disagreement," Ncube said.

"It is clear that there is determination to push them out of the business. As to what motivates them to do that whether there is a political hand in it, and whose political hand, I cannot say. Clearly, their Indian partners are the ones who are doing absolutely everything day and night in the civil courts, in the criminal courts, to push them out of the business. That is very clear."

Siduduzo in her social media post said her mother Laurinda has also not been spared the harassment, claiming the family's domestic workers in April once reported her to the police, accusing her of threatening to shoot them.

"The (employees) then went to the labour court to press charges of overtime and two of them further went to the Hillside police to open a criminal case against my mother. The false criminal charges against my mother were (1) she gave them 50kgs of mealie meal and then at night went to their rooms to steal a bucket of that very same mealie meal from them! (2) Threatening them with a gun!," Siduduzo said.

The employees later dropped the charges.

Siduduzo claimed some political opponents have "since hijacked the situation and want my mother to be arrested. This is not a secret and we were openly informed that they also want to tarnish my mother's image (slander her in the papers) in-turn to get to my father, former VP Mphoko.

"It is very obvious and no secret to the people of Zimbabwe that my parents have been victimised and slandered in the papers, in attempts to tarnish and humiliate them. Despite constant false accusations towards both my parents, which have been publicised in media, my parents have remained silent, by the grace of God."

"We are officially fed up of this harassment, defamation of character and constant abuse. Like any other God-fearing family, we do not interfere in other people's lives, neither have we taken anything that belongs to anyone else," Siduduzo posted.

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