Eight former Vale Logistics employees have dragged their employer to court, demanding K4.6 billion compensation as they accuse the company of firing them unceremoniously and in disregard of their permanent employment terms.
And upset by adjournments due to the absence of their lawyers and other factors, the ex-employees, who were laid off in 2015, asked the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) yesterday in Blantyre to proceed with the hearing without their lawyer.
The employees, one of whom has since died, were yesterday led by Christopher Mazuwa Chiumia as their lawyer was reportedly in self-isolation following a contact with someone who tested positive to Covid-19.
Chiumia told the IRC they wanted to proceed without their lawyer, saying their proposal was based on past experience that saw the six-year-long court matter being dismissed twice before they engaged the current lawyer.
This time around, he told the court, they were worried because their lawyer did not inform the court about the intended adjournment and were afraid the matter would be dismissed again.
“To avoid recurrence of what happened in the past, we want the hearing to proceed with or without our lawyer,” Chiumia told the court.
But presiding over the matter, Innocent Nebi, who was flanked by other panellists, advised the applicants to give their lawyer the benefit of doubt since this was the first time this had happened.
He told them they would be better off represented by the lawyer, proposing to them to allow the case to be adjourned to a date to be communicated.
The applicants, who are demanding K4 657 391 335.16 accepted the adjournment.
Lawyer representing Vale Logistics, Mabvuto Hara arrived at the court after the case was already adjourned.
Vale Logistics was working on trans-Malawi railway project that connects two pivotal points of its operations in Western and Eastern Mozambique through Malawi.
Created and built by multidisciplinary construction company Mota Engil Africa, the railway line is part of the Nacala Development Corridor that seeks to benefit several Southern African Development Community countries, including Malawi.
The project, a private sector-led initiative, seeks to allow Vale Logistics to move over 18 million tonnes of coal from its sister Moatize Coal Mines in Mozambique and pass through Mwanza, Chikhwawa, Neno, Balaka and Machinga districts to the Indian Ocean Port of Nacala on the Mozambican Eastern side, according to published reports.