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Mphoko’s Choppies conundrum

Mphoko’s Choppies conundrum
UNDER PRESSURE: Phelekezela Mphoko

Barely three years in the vice president’s office, Phelekezela Mphoko was sacked for being in the wrong faction.

In fact, according to the current leadership, he was part of the ‘criminals’ that had surrounded then President Robert Mugabe, which the coup plotters wanted rid of.

When the coup, which the powers that be prefer to call ‘operation restore legacy’ started, Mphoko was out of the country and fearing he might be arrested as he was considered a criminal.

He flew to Botswana, where he had served as the country’s ambassador, hoping the Khama administration would grant him asylum but alas.

A few days after his arrival he was driven to the Ramokgwebana border post as he had been assured he would not be arrested.

Former President Ian Khama had reportedly negotiated on his behalf and it was thus safe to return home.

Fast forward to seven months later, while he is still nursing the emotional wounds of being booted out before he had ‘eaten’ enough, Mphoko is now fighting to remain in charge of Choppies stores here in Zimbabwe.

A fight has erupted between him and former Botswana president, Festus Mogae who is arguing that Mphoko doesn’t deserve much from the business as he was drafted in to comply with Zimbabwe’s indigenization law, which compelled foreign investors to give 51percent of their businesses to locals.

The law has since been abandoned hence the dispute between Mphoko and Mogae.

According to Mogae, who is the chairperson of Choppies Group, Mphoko only owns seven percent of Choppies Zimbabwe.

However, Mphoko insists he owns 51 percent as per the initial agreement even though the indigenization Act is no longer functional.

What I find interesting in this fight is how Mogae is quick to point out that he has access to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the same way he was just a phone call away from Mugabe.

According to the weekly Independent newspaper, part of the letter written by Mogae to Mphoko reads:

“My brother, I would like to bring the following facts to your attention. We entered into this partnership with a clear understanding of the shareholding of 93 percent shares to Choppies Enterprises and 7 percent to the Mphoko family, free of charge. We signed agreements based on this and even the office of the former President (Robert Mugabe) has got these agreements.

Mphoko’s Choppies conundrum
NOT AMUSED: Festus Mogae

“You are well aware that I had access to President and I did clear this with him in the presence of former Foreign Affairs Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi. I have the same access to the current as I had with the previous one,” wrote Mogae.

What is interesting about the last part is that Mogae seems to be well aware that it only takes a phone call from the ‘boys’ to remind Mphoko about his closed files which they would not hesitate to reopen if he tries to be difficult.

Remember Mphoko was considered a criminal but was never persecuted. If it suits them, these charges might one day be resurrected.

You see, Zanu PF has a way of ruthlessly dealing with its former members such that some have been reduced from driving top of the range mercs to the cheapest cars from Japan.

Mphoko might be prepared to take Mogae head on in his quest to keep the 51 percent shares but if the current president decides to settle his old scores with Mphoko through this matter, the former vice president could even end up losing his seven percent shareholding.

And by the way, one of Mphoko’s former allies, a Bulawayo businessman cum aspiring Member of Parliament under the Zanu PF ticket recently denied any links with the former VP and your guess is as good as mine as to why he did that.

Could it be he doesn’t want to be associated with an enemy of the current leadership?

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