The High Court’s Financial and Economic Crimes Division yesterday expressed reservations when National Bus Service sought to adjourn the bus depots repossession case despite the other party being ready to proceed.
The court had convened to allow the State to parade a witness to prove that assets for the liquidated State-owned Shire Bus Lines were acquired illegally.
The witness, Hastings Bofomo Nyirenda, who was the liquidator of Shire Bus Lines, was expected to testify on whether there was an arrangement for the depots to be acquired by National Bus Services Limited owned by businessperson Leston Mulli.
However, the defence, represented by four lawyers Frank Mbeta, John Kalampa, Lusungu Gondwe and Gilbert Khonyongwa had only Khonyongwa present in court and asked for an adjournment.
The adjournment was on the basis that Mbeta, the lead defence lawyer, was not feeling well.
But Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda objected to the application, saying there were three other lawyers who could have handled the case.
Ruling on the application, presiding judge Violet Chipao said it was unfortunate that Mbeta was not feeling well and could not travel for the hearing, but the defence should have done better in its communication to prevent a situation where the State witness travelled from Blantyre to Lilongwe.
She further said the excuse advanced by Gondwe that he was attending another court was not convincing as he did not indicate the same to her court.
The court was also concerned with the absence of Kalampa without any explanation.
Chipao said: “It shows that they had already in mind that the case has been adjourned. It is for the court to decide to adjourn a case. For the defendant to insist on adjourning a case because of one counsel is not fair.”
The judge said she was reluctantly allowing the application and adjourned the matter to May 18 2023.
The State is remaining with two witnesses to close its case.
Government repossessed depots and workshops that National Bus Services Limited acquired from government after Shire Bus Lines was liquidated. In two separate judgements, the court ordered that the facilities be repossessed