Zuma seeks to defend ‘false, defamatory’ Hanekom tweet ruling

2019-11-04 13:00

Former president Jacob Zuma has applied for leave to appeal a court ruling regarding the tweet in which he called former tourism minister Derek Hanekom an “agent of the enemy”.

According to a court ruling by Judge Dhaya Pillay, this tweet was “false and defamatory”.

The tweet, posted on July 25, read: “I am not surprised by @Julius_S_Malema’s revelations about @Derek_Hanekom. This is part of the plan I referred to at the Zondo Commission. @Derek_Hanekom is a well-known agent of the enemy.”

On September 6, Judge Pillay ruled that the tweet be removed within 24 hours and that Zuma apologise to Hanekom, who had filed an application to have it declared defamatory.

At the time of going to press, however, the tweet was still on the ex-president’s account and had been shared more than 3 300 times.

Hanekom confirmed that Zuma had applied for leave to appeal. The application will be heard on Tuesday.

Hanekom also claimed R500 000 in damages, but an oral hearing has yet to take place to determine the amount of damages, should the appeal fail.

Zuma’s tweet came after it was revealed that Hanekom had met with the EFF leadership to discuss a motion of no confidence in Zuma.

Shortly before posting the tweet, he testified before the Zondo commission of inquiry that there was a conspiracy plot among local intelligence services and those of two other “major countries” to remove him from the ANC by “character assassination”.

Zuma testified that, among other things, former minister of mineral resources, advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi, was a “spy” and that Siphiwe Nyanda, former minister of communications and former head of the SA National Defence Force, had received orders from the apartheid police.

Shortly afterwards, both Ramatlhodi and Nyanda challenged Zuma to undergo a lie detector test to prove these allegations.

In his court documents, Hanekom argued that Zuma used EFF leader Julius Malema’s comments as a basis for declaring that he was an “agent of the enemy” in the context of the evidence he gave before the Zondo Commission. “Consequently, the intention of the statement by Mr Zuma and for those who read it was to mean that I was an apartheid spy and was part of the plan to infiltrate the ANC and commit character assassination on Mr Zuma,” Hanekom’s court documents read.

In a statement after the initial court ruling, Hanekom said South Africans “must stand together against the spread of lies to instil fear”.

Zuma’s application for leave to appeal comes despite the former president saying in an interview earlier this year that he would have “sell his socks” to cover his legal costs.

It also came to light on Friday that Zuma will oppose the VBS Mutual Bank subpoena for a R7.3m loan he owes it. Zuma obtained the loan in 2016 to pay R7.8m to the SA Revenue Service for government money he used for renovations at Nkandla. By August 2018, however, he had fallen behind with his repayments to VBS.

His spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, did not respond to requests for a comment.

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December 8 2019