Peter Matika, Senior Reporter
FORMER Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s woes continue to mount with workers at Choppies Supermarket where he is a shareholder saying they are subjected to deplorable working conditions and have called for the immediate intervention of the authorities.
The workers are accusing the management of unfair dismissals, victimisation, poor salaries and non-payment of overtime and have threatened to demonstrate against the multi-million franchise if their plight is not addressed soon.
The workers, through their workers union, have since penned an open letter to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, seeking immediate intervention.
The workers accused Mr Mphoko of hiring people of Asian origin and placing them in managerial positions at the expense of local and qualified staff.
The accusations come at a time when the former VP is facing a string of allegations and lawsuits among them from a local confectionery company. The confectionery company is suing Mr Mphoko for $2,1 million for loss of business.
Choppies has about 32 shops countrywide.
Reads part of the letter: “Since Choppies T/A Nanavac Investments came here in Zimbabwe around 2013 with the former Vice-President P Mphoko he took us from our previous employers (which is good) now the problem is that he hired his cruel; suppressive and racist managers.
“Truly they don’t respect any black person. My question is that if this business is Mr Mphoko’s why is he hiring managers from as far as India while we have unemployment problems in our country? What exactly are these guys doing that we are not capable of doing?
“To be honest as Choppies workers, we are slaves in our own land but we don’t have anywhere to go since the former VP is being used as a tool to suppress us.”
The workers said they once requested for the payment of their overtime but they were threatened with dismissal.
“Since we mentioned before that we were taken from our previous employer Mr Raj Modi we agreed with Choppies that our services and benefits will be continuous but all the old staff are being fired unfairly to avoid paying for their services and benefits. We appeal to your Honourable Office so that the slavery that is being currently practised by Choppies can be immediately stopped and all those who lost their jobs be recalled or at least fairly paid for their services.”
The workers further implored the authorities to investigate those of Asian origin hired by Mr Mphoko amid fears that they might not have the requisite travelling documents since they were “getting into Zimbabwe through the signature of Mr Mphoko”.
However, Choppies Zimbabwe managing director and son to the former VP, Mr Siqokoqela Mphoko refuted the allegations, saying the letter must have been penned by mischievous workers pushing a “devilish” agenda.
“We have created jobs for more than 2 000 people all across Zimbabwe. We grew our business in three years under difficult economic conditions. Any person that doesn’t like certain conditions is free to air them with us using the proper channels. I have an open door policy, workers have access to me.
Lots of them have come to me with different concerns.
“Our organisation has a set of rules that all employees should abide by. Failure to do so results in serious repercussions,” said Mr Mphoko.
He said the reason for employing foreigners was necessitated by the fact that Choppies had other investors from outside Zimbabwe.
“We are one of the few organisations that provide meals to employees. Choppies has a record of being one of the best performing companies in Zimbabwe. We set a precedence to prove that our country has a conducive environment for investment.
“So any disgruntled person should learn to use the proper channels and not this mischief. There are a few trouble makers we suspect are behind this and it is not the first time we have had to deal with such. We will soon be investigating and will deal with them accordingly. You as the media are free to do whatever you want but you shouldn’t demonise our company,” he said.