BULAWAYO – A fight for the control of the supermarket chain, Choppies Zimbabwe, has brought criminal charges for the wife of one of the directors.

Nomagugu Mphoko, 36, the wife of Choppies Zimbabwe director Siqokoqela Mphoko, was charged with 49 counts of extortion on Monday when she appeared before a Bulawayo magistrate.

She is accused of swiping-for-cash at 15 supermarkets and threatening to have managers of Indian origin sacked if they refused to give her cash, which is scarce in Zimbabwe.

“Upon being advised of the directive against such transactions, the accused would threaten the shop managers with loss of employment and deportation from Zimbabwe. She would also tell the managers that her husband is the owner of the company and that they were mere employees under his authority,” said prosecutor Nkathazo Dlodlo.

“The accused person derived the advantage of easily accessing cash which is hard to come by. Her conduct resulted in loss for Nanavac Investments in that being a retain business, the company’s outlets rely heavily on cash to pay critical suppliers, including arranging for foreign payments with local banks.”

Using various bank cards between June 13 and 29 this year, the prosecutor said she collected $30,230 in cash.

She was released on $200 bail to September 3.

Professor Welshman Ncube is the defence lawyer.

Nomagugu is the daughter-in-law of former Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko who, along with his son, is battling to retain control of the Zimbabwean operation in a raging boardroom squabble with Botswana shareholders.

Choppies Zimbabwe is a partnership between Nanavac Investments, a company owned by the former Vice President and his son, Siqokoqela Mphoko, and the Choppies Group headquartered in Botswana. The Mphokos hold a 51 percent stake and the Choppies Group a 49 percent stake in the business – but this is now under dispute.

Ramachanda Mottoba, the Choppies Group chief executive officer, claims the Mphokos were in reality given seven percent shareholding for free and the other 44 percent was a cover to adhere to the country’s indigenisation laws.

Former VP Mphoko says they will fight tooth and nail to keep their shareholding.

Choppies Zimbabwe has 34 retail outlets spread out across the country.