Choppies workers have been barred from talking to former vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko’s family by the store chain’s  Botswana investors.

The Mphoko family is embroiled in an ownership wrangle with their Botswana-registered Choppies Distribution Centre (Proprietary) Limited business partners.

Botswana-based Choppies group CEO Ottapathu Ramachandran last week wrote a memo to local Choppies employees threatening them for dealing with the Mphokos.

“Kindly note that Mr P Mphoko and Mr S Mphoko do not have a financial or operational say in the business of Nanavac.  We strongly request that all employees desist from dealing with the above-mentioned persons with immediate effect.

“Any action taken as a result from the above-mentioned persons will be contrary to the company rules and procedures and disciplinary action will be taken against the responsible employee (s).”

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

However, the Botswana investors say the Mphokos only own 7% shareholding.  The foreign investors’ claim the Mphokos were only drafted into the business to by-pass the then 51% mandatory Indigenisation laws.

Mphoko’s lawyer, Welshman Ncube, told The Standard that the Botswana-based Choppies CEO was offside in saying the ex-VP had no financial or operational say in the running of the business.

“He has no right to write a letter like that as his claim that they have exclusive rights in managing the business is still pending at the High Court. They applied for exclusive rights and we opposed it,” Ncube said in a telephone interview adding: “he is trying to execute an order that has not been given.”