Siphiwe Nyanda sues Zuma for defamation, wants R800K – report

Chair of the MK Veterans National Council Steering Comittee General Siphiwe Nyanda speaks at a press conference at Lilies Leaf farm in Johannesburg on 6 June 2017. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

Chair of the MK Veterans National Council Steering Comittee General Siphiwe Nyanda speaks at a press conference at Lilies Leaf farm in Johannesburg on 6 June 2017. Picture: Yeshiel Panchia

The former minister and military head claims the former president was lying and defaming him as someone who’d betrayed the liberation movement.

Sunday World has reported that the former head of the SA National Defence Force has now also taken former president Jacob Zuma to court for suggesting he may have been an apartheid spy.

Last month, Zuma suggested that Nyanda had taken instruction from the apartheid police.

Zuma took to the witness stand at the commission of inquiry into state capture where he had also earlier alleged that former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramathlodi had possibly similarly worked as a spy.

Zuma later also tweeted that another long-time detractor of his, former tourism minister Derek Hanekom, was an “enemy agent” in what became another defamation case that was heard this week in the High Court in Durban.

Zuma told the state capture commission of an apartheid spy that was trained to infiltrate the ranks of the ANC, who went by the name “Ralph”, highlighting an incident which resulted in Ralph being arrested by the Swazi police.

After Ralph was arrested, he supposedly gave the Swazi officials inside information and was then transported to Mozambique, the commission heard.

Zuma said Ralph then contacted his handlers to inform them that he was being taken to Mozambique and would possibly “never be seen again”. He allegedly told his handlers where he would be sleeping and a plan was hatched to rescue him.

The plan Zuma narrated involved a canister being thrown through the window closest to the bed where Ralph was sleeping. However, the alleged spy was not injured and managed to escape through the same window.

Ralph was then rearrested by the Swazi police the next morning, who had been conniving with the apartheid police, Zuma said.

The former president told the commission the police then wanted to release Ralph “because he was very important” but were cautious to do so because they wanted to determine whether his identity as a spy had been compromised.

Zuma told the commission the police then arranged that in order to determine if Ralph’s identity had been revealed, he would be hugged by a certain person: Nyanda.

This, for Zuma, was conclusive evidence that Nyanda had been compromised.

However, ANC struggle veteran and former spokesperson to Zuma Mac Maharaj later poured cold water on the claim.

He told the Sunday Times that if Zuma had had such strong suspicions about Nyanda for such a long time, it was inexplicable that he had allowed him to be appointed him to positions of power and influence in government, especially to be the head of the defence force.

Zuma also personally appointed Nyanda to cabinet in 2009 as minister of communications.

Maharaj said: “It can’t be [true that Nyanda was a spy]. If it was true, who gets indicted? It is the person who had that information and did nothing to protect the organisation and the struggle [Zuma],” said Maharaj without naming Zuma directly.

Now Nyanda has reportedly filed papers in the High Court in Johannesburg demanding an apology from Zuma and R800,000 for damage to his reputation.

Zuma’s legal defence on Friday appeared to backtrack on the meaning of Zuma’s Hanekom tweet on Friday, and it is possible they may also argue that Zuma never explicitly called Nyanda a spy in his state capture testimony.

Zuma’s lawyers contended that their client had never actually said Hanekom was a double agent working for the apartheid regime. They said the tweet from Zuma was a reference to current events, and that when he’d referred to Hanekom as a “known enemy agent”, he’d meant it in a contemporary sense.

Zuma’s lawyer suggested that anyone claiming Zuma had actually been calling Hanekom an apartheid spy was committing a leap of logic that couldn’t be backed up.

That was, however, how the tweet was widely interpreted in political circles and reported on at the time.

On Friday, judgment was reserved in the matter. Hanekom said in a statement that he had been “shocked, offended and pained by the events that have unfolded over the last weeks”.

Hanekom said that after Zuma had made his allegation at the Zondo commission that Nyanda and Ramathlodi had been apartheid spies, he had interpreted the tweet towards himself in a similar light.

“The argument that the statement about me was a reference to conspiring with ‘enemies’, namely the EFF, is absurd, to say the least.”

Zuma’s spokesperson reportedly was not aware of the new lawsuit.

(Edited by Charles Cilliers)

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