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Attorney General unyielding on Mulli deal

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Blessings Chinsinga

Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda has obtained a preservation order stopping National Bus Services (NBS), owned by businessperson Leston Mulli, from dealing in any way or collecting gate-pass fees in five depots that were previously being managed by the company.

On Friday last week, the High Court in Blantyre ruled that the Ministry of Local Government was the rightful owner of the depots, effectively kicking out NBS.

The bus company was managing Blantyre’s Wenela, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Kasungu and Mzimba bus depots after the company bought Shire Bus Lines which owned the structures.

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But a High Court order dated August 3, 2022 that we have seen is enforcing the judgement that the government should take over the management of the depots.

“The defendant and/ or any person on its behalf is further prohibited from collecting any gate fees and/ or in any way dealing with any proceeds collected from users and/or those who accessed properties previously owned and/or belonging to Shire Bus Lines,” part of the preservation order reads.

It adds that the AG should make arrangements with relevant authorities to oversee the smooth operations of depots while the order subsists or until a contrary one is issued.

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In an interview last evening, Mulli said he would only comment after being served with the order.

In an interview Thursday, Nyirenda said while the order is in part enforcing last week’s ruling it is an independent act that seeks to keep the depots away from those who do not own them.

Last week, Minister of Local Government Blessings Chinsinga told The Daily Times that following the court ruling, the respective councils would firstly assess the state of the infrastructure and revert to initial investment plans to ascertain the actualisation.

“Already, the councils have had pending investment plans, to modernise the bus terminals, when the bus terminals were in the hands of the private company. Now is the time to actualise the investment plans that are in their files,” Chinsinga said.

He added that the initial plan was that the councils would invest in the depots in a Public Private Partnership arrangement because the government’s resource envelope is too thin to finance the investment for the proposed modern infrastructure.

“Some councils had already identified investment partners and this court ruling gives them an opportunity to roll out their plans. However, where necessary, the ministry will come in with support, where Councils’ capacity is constrained,” he said.

NBS obtained an order for permission for judicial review challenging the decision of the Secretary for Local Government and Rural Development in which the latter directed relevant councils to take over management of the five depots.

The bus company further obtained an order staying the ministry’s decision.

But Nyirenda argued that the injunctions were wrongly granted.

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