State is extravagant in its pursuit for R20m from lawyer Barnabas Xulu, court hears

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Barnabas Xulu. (Photo: Gallo Images)
Barnabas Xulu. (Photo: Gallo Images)
  • An "extraordinary extravagance" were the words an advocate used to describe the State's hunting down of attorney Barnabas Xulu for R20 million in legal fees.
  • The lawyer argued before the Western Cape High Court that Xulu's appointment for services to the fisheries department was above board. 
  • The case is part of a long-running dispute the department lodged to get Xulu to pay back the money. 

The State's hunting down of lawyer Barnabas Xulu for R20 million in legal fees is an "extraordinary extravagance", his advocate, Isaac Shai, told the Western Cape High Court in a virtual hearing on Friday.

"It is not the job of the State to litigate," he added. "It is the job of the State to deliver services to the country."

Shai was finishing his lengthy submissions to show the court why Xulu should not be found personally liable to the fisheries department for a R20 million refund. It's the department case that the amount was paid to him in violation of the State Liability Act. 

Xulu has been in a bitter and long-running dispute over the payment, which was for services rendered to the department. His work included getting a multimillion-rand reparations settlement amount in lieu of lobster and hake that was plundered from the country's waters by a Hout Bay fishing company.

READ | SA government targets lobster poacher's US trust millions after conviction

Shai said Xulu did the work and sent the department repeated requests for payment. When he eventually obtained a writ, legally, and got the money via the sheriff of the court, he had to pay debt to others, including a US-based law firm.

Shai asked whether Xulu would even have to pay back the fees that he paid on behalf of the department.

He submitted that the State could not claim the costs of three counsel, which it is asking for, because it didn't need to go to court in the first place. 

"We believe, in this instance, the State; the department [of Fisheries] has been extraordinary, extravagant in the manner which they pursued this matter," Shai submitted.

The fisheries department wants Xulu and his companies, Setlacorp and Incovision, to be held liable for the repayment of the money.

It  also wants his office manager, Nicole Lauren Pick, to be joined to the matter because it disputes that money that was paid into her account was for the repayment of a loan from her to keep the company afloat while Xulu waited for his payment. 

Shai submitted that Xulu was caught up in departmental and judicial politics. Xulu is also Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe's lawyer.

The matter continues.

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