Judge President John Hlophe's attorney, Barnabas Xulu, has failed in his urgent bid to challenge the scathing contempt of court ruling made against him, which he argued unlawfully ordered him to hand over his Porsche.

Western Cape Acting Judge Mas-Udah Pangarker found the grounds that Xulu advanced to appeal her ruling that he was guilty of multiple acts of contempt of court ‘do not have substance or merit’.

She added that ‘there appears to me to be no reasonable prospect of success on appeal’.

A News24 report by legal writer Karyn Maughan notes Pangarker had found Xulu guilty of contempt of court linked to his R20m legal fees battle with the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries. She also ruled that he receive a 30-day suspended sentence for contempt and pay a R30 000 fine – a punishment Xulu slammed as ‘draconian’.

In what the report says is a potentially embarrassing development for Hlophe, who is currently awaiting a JSC vote on whether he could be impeached for gross misconduct, Pangarker's ruling reveals that Xulu sought the Judge President's intervention in the saga.

Xulu did so by writing to Hlophe and asking him to refer all the cases linked to his fees battle with the Department of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries to the JSC.

Hlophe refused to intervene, but Xulu has already repeatedly used his association with the Judge President to argue that he has been unfairly treated by the judges who have ruled against him, notes the report.

Xulu's contempt saga has its genesis in a January 2020 ruling delivered by Western Cape High Court Judge Owen Rogers, who found that the service level agreement and subsequent R20m legal fees settlement agreement between Xulu's BXI law firm and the department were both unlawful.

The News24 report notes Rogers ordered Xulu's firm to pay back the R20m and ruled that Xulu must be called upon to explain why he should not be held personally liable for that money.

That case is being heard by Eastern Cape Judge Phillip Zilwa.

Xulu has also petitioned the Appeal Court in a bid to challenge Rogers' ruling against him, which he argues was obtained through ‘perjury and fraud’ by the department and must be overturned.

Prior to that appeal, the department went to court to freeze Xulu's assets – as part of its efforts to recover the money that his firm has been found to owe it, a matter that led to this week’s ruling.

However, Xulu's lawyers have indicated he will now attempt to petition the Appeal Court to hear his challenge to Pangarker's ruling, which portrays him as consistently considering himself to be above the law.

Full News24 report