Choppies faces fire and fury in Zimbabwe

January has been an eventful month for the Botswanan supermarket chain in one of its most important international markets. Riots sparked by the government’s January 12th announcement that it was more than doubling the retail price of fuel saw nine Choppies outlets in Harare and Bulawayo looted, with four of these extensively damaged by fire. Choppies CEO Ram Ottapathu estimated the total loss to the retailer at around USD9 million, inclduing USD2.5 million in lost stock.

A number of videos of this activity were posted to social media. “Looking at the nature of destruction, particularly Choppies Supermarkets, it is clear that it was not random looting, but it was planned,” Zimbabwean industry and commerce minister Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu claimed.

A week later, it was revealed that former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko’s family had given up their claim to a 51% shareholding in Choppies’ Zimbabwean subsidiary (for more information on this dispute, read our previous story). According to a joint statement issued by lawyers representing both parties, “The shareholders and directors have amicably settled all issues … the Mphokos have disinvested from Nanavac Investments, trading as Choppies Supermarkets Zimbabwe, and have no further interests in the company and the business.” Financial details of this settlement were not disclosed.

All of this raises two questions – did looting paved the way for this deal and was the looting itself a stratagem intended to bring about that very end? Despite the considerable political and economic risks involved in doing business in Zimbabwe, this market has yielded healthy profits for both Choppies and Pick n Pay over recent years – due in large part to a lack of competition.

Now that this dispute has been resolved, Choppies may finally get around to publishing its results for the 12 months to June 2018, which are now almost four months overdue (for more information, click here).

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