Former president Jacob Zuma’s application for leave to appeal a judgment finding him guilty of defaming former tourism minister Derek Hanekom has been dismissed at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
Judge Dhaya Pillay on Tuesday reserved judgment in Zuma’s bid for leave to appeal an order that he apologise to Hanekom for a tweet where he called him a “known enemy agent”.
Zuma was also ordered to remove the tweet and to pay damages, the figure of which has yet to be determined.
The legal team for former president Jacob Zuma on Tuesday called to consider the vital aspects of context in his defamation matter with former tourism minister Derek Hanekom.
“My lady, context is important, if you look at what was said at the Zondo commission of inquiry, it was focused mainly on what [Zuma] says about spies. What he said about his political onslaught against him is the fact that there were people inside the party and outside the party who wanted him out of leadership roles,” Masuku said.
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.”
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, Zuma testified before the Zondo commission that there was a plot among local intelligence services and those of two other countries to remove him from the ANC through character assassination.
Masuku said that Zuma was referring to Hanekom solely in the context of his role in his removal as president. He added that Zuma never called Hanekom an apartheid spy at any point.
“He simply says there was a concerted effort to make sure he gets out of power. Even Hanekom says he played a role in that. A reasonable reader would ask, how did you play a role in removing Zuma? Well, he liaised with the EFF and other political parties to get him out.”
He added: “Would Zuma be entitled to have a view of Hanekom’s role to be one that was wedge driving? It is within this context that we say you could have interpreted that tweet differently.”
Masuku added that there should be no regard given to the Zondo commission testimony, where Zuma had labelled other well known ANC and government individuals as spies, in granting leave to appeal.
“That evidence is incomplete. Secondly, there is no cross-examination,” he said.
For Hanekom, advocate Carol Steinberg submitted that “known enemy agent’ referred to Hanekom as being an apartheid spy.
“Known enemy agent does mean apartheid-era spy in this context.”
She added that Hanekom, who fought in the struggle for freedom, was naturally upset at the accusation that he was a spy.