Barnabas Xulu's lawyer tells court: 'We are here because of politics'

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Barnabas Xulu.
Barnabas Xulu.
Nelius Rademan, Gallo Images, Foto24
  • Barnabas Xulu is a victim of "politics" in his battle over legal fees the Fisheries Department wants back.
  • His lawyer says nobody has found fault with Xulu's work. 
  • Instead, they are concentrating on his purchase of luxury items with the money he earned. 

Barnabas Xulu is a victim of politics in his fight over the R20 million in legal fees the Fisheries Department wants back, his lawyer told the Western Cape High Court. 

His counsel, advocate Isaac Shai, said nobody had found fault with Xulu's work as a lawyer. Instead, they are concentrating on his purchase of luxury items with the money he earned. 

"Why are we here today?" asked Shai in the online hearing in front of Judge Phillip Zilwa on Wednesday.   

READ | Fisheries dept in tussle to get R20m back from Barnabas Xulu

Shai said Xulu's problems were because of politics inside and outside the department, and not because of his work as a lawyer., adding: 

We are not here because of laws, which have been contravened and laws which have been broken. We are here because of politics.

"It's politics, politics, politics," submitted Shai.  

He said black lawyers, like Xulu, take on work for the state because they battle to be hired by corporate companies.  

And, in Xulu's case, he had done the work required, but now there was an attempt to kill his law firm. 

Paid

The matter in front of Zilwa is an application by the Fisheries Department to hold Xulu, his companies and his former office manager, Nicole Lauren Pick, personally liable for the money paid into Xulu's company, Barnabas Xulu Incorporated (BXI). 

Zilwa has to decide whether the application justifies "piercing the corporate veil" - making directors and owners of companies personally liable to repay money when a company's business account does not have enough money left.  

The companies involved are BXI, Xulu's accounting services company, Setlacorp, and Incovision, a company that holds his family home in Sheffield Beach.

He raised the money for a Porsche from the finance facility linked to this account.

The department also wants Pick to be personally liable because of money BXI paid into her account.

The department disputes Xulu's explanation that he was paying Pick back for keeping his business afloat while he waited for his fees to be paid. 

The long-running dispute is related to a payment Xulu demanded for services rendered in terms of a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and a settlement agreement with the then Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 

The minister, at the time, was Senzeni Zokwana.

READ | Gupta extradition: UAE confirms signing agreement on mutual legal assistance

The department was split into the Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Environment, and is now headed by Barbara Creecy, and they still want their money back.  

After a long-running dispute at the department, involving a tussle between the director-general, his deputy and Zokwana, Xulu managed to get a judge to provide permission to get the money from the department's Standard Bank account.

That writ has since been rescinded, and the SLA and the settlement agreement were set aside by a court.

Before the rescission, the State Attorney's efforts to get Xulu not to move the money from his trust account were unsuccessful. 

The department believes he should not have been paid the money without the proper notices and timelines being followed, in line with the State Liability Act. 

The department submits that, as a lawyer, he should have known this, and should have held on to the money until the dispute was settled. 

Xulu said he had to use the money because his business liabilities had piled up when the department dragged its heels with regard to payment.

The matter continues.

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