Hanekom calls Zuma’s legal defence ‘absurd’ and EFF ‘enemy’ label ‘preposterous’

Zuma's lawyers have argued that he didn't defame the former minister in the way he claims he understood it.

In a statement on Friday following the first day of proceedings in his R500,000 defamation case against former president Jacob Zuma, former minister Derek Hanekom expressed his shock at developments and described Zuma’s description of the EFF as an enemy as “preposterous”.

Earlier in court, judgment was reserved in the matter where the former minister and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member sued Zuma following the latter’s tweet declaring him a “known enemy agent”.

Hanekom said in his statement that he had been “shocked, offended and pained by the events that have unfolded over the last weeks”.

He said that after Zuma had made an allegation at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture last month that former head of the defence force Siphiwe Nyanda and former minister Ngoako Ramathlodi had been apartheid spies, he then interpreted the tweet towards himself in a similar light.

“I filed a motion seeking relief for defamation of character. I note from his court papers that former president Zuma put up no proof that I was an apartheid spy. His counsel conceded in court that the former [resident ‘does not question my struggle credentials’ and that he does not ‘regard me as an apartheid spy’.”

Hanekom, however, said this was not good enough, and he still felt that Zuma had been impugning him as a spy, just as he had explicitly alleged of Nyanda and Ramathlodi.

“In my view I can attach no other meaning to his statement than that he is accusing me, as he has comrades Nyanda and Ramathlodi, of being an agent of the apartheid state. These accusations are irresponsible and dangerous, particularly in our country which witnessed the horrific ‘necklacing”’of alleged spies in the 1980s.

“I am pleased that this matter has been ventilated in court. Whilst the judge has yet to rule in the case, my view is that our being labelled as spies is a premeditated strategy to divert attention from the real work of the Zondo commission to uncover the truth about allegations of corruption and state capture.

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

“In a constitutional democracy, describing an opposition political party as an enemy is preposterous. Besides, the work of parliamentarians by necessity includes engaging colleagues on opposition benches, debating and convincing them of the soundness of our ideas.

“Furthermore, as a proud, long-serving member of the ANC I am committed to the objective set out in our ANC constitution ‘to unite all the people of South Africa, Africans in particular, for the complete liberation of the country from all forms of discrimination and national oppression … and transform South Africa as rapidly as possible into a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country…'”

He said the country owed it to future generations to “usher in a new era, to unite and renew our collective commitment, across all formations of society, and throw our weight behind President Ramaphosa to rebuild our country”.

“Economic growth and prosperity, reversing inequality, unemployment and poverty requires all hands on deck. A lot has already been achieved, including the start of the restoration of the credibility and integrity of the NPA and SARS.”

He called on all South Africans to live out the national motto “united in diversity”, to make a firm commitment to zero tolerance of corruption in any form and respond to the ‘thuma mina” call of Ramaphosa to build the country envisioned by the constitution.

After the conclusion of arguments from both Hanekom and Zuma, Judge Daya Pillay undertook to deliver a finding as soon as possible.

Earlier, proceedings at the High Court in Durban saw Zuma’s lawyers contending 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 counsel Muzi Sikhakhane argued that Zuma’s use of the word ‘known’ suggested only that Zuma and others were aware that Hanekom had been working to have Zuma removed as the president, in contravention of the ANC’s official line, and that he was working with the EFF.

He 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.

Sikhakhane later added that not everything about politics was about apartheid, or should be construed as such.

Zuma’s “known enemy agent” tweet was a reaction to claims made by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema outside the High Court in Pretoria following the matter between Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on July 23.

Malema claimed Hanekom and SACP deputy secretary-general Solly Mapaila had participated in a plot to oust Jacob Zuma. According to Malema, Hanekom met with the EFF last year to discuss Zuma’s removal by way of a vote of no confidence. He also allegedly planned to break away from the ANC alongside others if the attempt to oust Zuma failed, something which Hanekom has denied.

On Twitter, Zuma then said he was “not surprised” about Malema’s “revelations regarding” Hanekom.

“It is part of the plan I mentioned at the Zondo commission,” he continued, before claiming that Hanekom was a “known enemy agent”.

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