A dilapidated Lilongwe Bus Depot managed by National Bank Company
* It is our view that they do have a right to raise a concern on this matter
* It is their claim that National Bank Company is making a lot of money from the purported ownership of these bus depots
* And they feel they have a right to be receiving a proportionate share of these revenues
By Duncan Mlanjira
Public Private Partnership Commission has engaged the Attorney General seeking guidance on how the 15% shareholding which former staff hold in defunct Shire Bus Lines matter should be handled.
This is after the Commission has attested that the report on the liquidation of the company in 2007 “does confirm that the staff had a 15% shareholding in the company”.
The former Shire Bus Lines staff have all along contended that when the company was liquidated and acquired by National Bus Company, they had a 15% shareholding whose proceeds they haven’t received 15 years down the line.
As the legal battle rages on that involves the Attorney General, the former staff sought legal redress through the Public Private Partnership Commission where they raised concern in the manner in which the existing assets of Shire Bus Lines Limited, including bus depots and houses, were taken over by National Bus Company and yet they, as shareholders of the defunct company, have not received any proceeds from this transaction.
In his letter to the Attorney General, dated June 22, 2022, the Commission’s Chief Executive Officer, Patrick Kabambe said: “It is their claim that National Bank Company is making a lot of money from the purported ownership of these bus depots and they feel they have a right to be receiving a proportionate share of these revenues.
“I am aware that you are already dealing with the matter in which National Bus Company acquired assets of Shire Bus Lines. Nevertheless, I am compelled to bring the complaint raised by the ex-staff and to seek your guidance on how my office should handle the matter.”
Thus Kabambe attests that “the report does confirm that the staff had a 15% shareholding in the company and it is [the Commission’s] view that they do have a right to raise a concern on this matter”.
Last February, the former employees reignited their campaign to press government to get their terminal benefits years after the company was liquidated.
A report by Nation newspaper in February quoted the ex-staff as complaining of the discrepancies their final terminal benefits were calculated.
They had said they were suffering greatly and over 20 of their colleagues had “died as paupers because they could not get proper medication when they fell sick due to poverty”.
They were quoted as saying: “When we were being retrenched, we were told that we could be given enough money as severance pay and on top of that, transport money to enable us to hire cars to take us back to our respective homes.
“To our surprise, we only got K20,000 as transport allowance and that money was not enough to hire a vehicle within Lilongwe,” they said while general secretary for Transport and General Workers Union Ronald Mbewe told the Nation newspaper that they took the matter to court after noting the discrepancies.
“When we saw the discrepancies in the benefits, we decided to take the case to court,” he was quoted as saying.
In 2006, government instructed Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC), then Privatisation Commission, to liquidate all MDC interests before liquidating its assets due to poor performance.
Shire Bus Lines was also liquidated in 2007 after inviting private sector players to partner it with then Malawi National Bus Company.
Mulli Brothers then bought the company and reconstituted it to National Bus Company in which it manages all bus depots owned by Shire Bus Lines that are across the country.
Every bus by other operators pay a user-fee and those proceeds allegedly go direct to National Bus Company — thus the ex-staff demanding to be compensated since their 15% shareholding is in such assets.
Meanwhile, owner of National Bus Company, Leston Mulli, who was arrested alongside former Secretary to President and Cabinet, Lloyd Muhara on Monday — on allegations that they swindled the Reserve Bank of Malawi of K30 billion — were granted bail by Lilongwe Chief Resident Magistrate Madalitso Chimwaza.
They paid a K500,000 cash bond, one surety bonded at K10 million and are to appear at Area 30 Police Headquarters once every fortnight and not to interference with state witnesses.
Muhara and Mulli have been charged with two counts namely — ‘conspiracy to defraud and abuse of office’.