- Ram’s Indian managers face sexual harassment charges
- Ram instructs them to stop dealing with the Mphokos with immediate eff ect
- Threatens disciplinary action for transgressors
- Choppies workers union blast Ram
The Choppies national workers’ committee and their representative trade union, Commercial Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (CWUZ) have accused the retail store’s Indian managers of sexual harassment and blamed the retail giant Chief Executive officer, Ottapathu Ramachandran of ignoring their appeals for help.
Ramachandran last week warned Choppies Zimbabwe workers from dealing with his company’s business partners-the former Zimbabwean Vice president Phelekezela Mphoko family in matters related to the internal management of the retail giant store, in what later opened a can of worms.
In the letter dated November 19, Ram said “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.”
The letter further threatens disciplinary action against those who ignore the order. “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).”
Ramachandran confirmed the letter to this publication saying the Mphokos are facing criminal charges in relation to the business and are not needed anywhere near the business. The dispute came about after the Mphokos met Choppies workers at the company’s Bulawayo headquarters to hear their grievances ranging from poor pay, sexual harassment, to unfair dismissal and racial attacks by their Indian managers.
However, Ram’s intervention has not been well received by the workers union. The Choppies national workers’ committee and their representative trade union, Commercial Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (CWUZ) has come out guns blazing accusing Ram of ignoring bread and butter issues of sexual harassment of female staff, unfair dismissals, low pay and racial attacks; on allegations that some black employees are allegedly called “baboons” by their managers of Indian origin.
“Your email does not address the bread and butter hostile issues that workers have been subjected to from unprofessional Indian managers. In our view, your email also threatens the workers just like the managers,” Zwelithini Malinga, the chairperson of the Choppies national workers’ committee, wrote in a letter dated November 20 addressed to Ramachandran that is also copied to the Choppies board of directors in the possession of The Botswana Gazette.
Malinga confirmed the letter to this publication in telephone interview but Ramachandran says he is yet to receive it.
“The Indian managers practice racism, sexual harassment of female staff, and vulgar language like Africans are baboons and monkeys, which is a violation of labour laws of Zimbabwe,” the letter continues.
The union has further called on Ram to give audience to the workers and hear their complaints.
Malinga on Friday said the workers’ committee wanted the directors to stop harassing employees in furtherance of their boardroom war with the Mphokos, adding “as far as we are concerned, we know the Mphokos have 51% shareholding”.
The CWUZ has also weighed in with a statement: “We will not, as a trade union, tolerate that behaviour. The employees have a right to approach the Mphokos until the ownership dispute is resolved.
“The action by the workers’ committee to approach the Mphokos is correct since they are also the directors of the business as things stand.”
Ram and his board were compelled to bow out of the business and grant the Mphoko’s full control of the Zimbabwean operations, but have demanded a staggering 1 billion and 13 Million Pula from Mphokos after the Mphokos invoked the buyout provision of the shareholding agreement.
The Mphokos lawyer, Welshman Ncube told this publication this week that they are still considering the matter offer and consulting the company’s accounts.
The tensions between the warring shareholders arise from an ownership dispute between Choppies Distribution Centre (Proprietary) Limited business partners and Zimbabwean investment vehicle, Nanavac, which is claiming a disputed 51% stake in the business. Ram and his board claim the Nanavac stake is actually 7 percent.
Ram and company claim the Mphokos were only drafted into the business to by-pass the then 51% mandatory Indigenisation Laws while Mphoko argues his business partners want to take advantage of his political situation since he was fired from government and the ruling Zanu PF party. The matter is still before the courts for determination.