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By Citizen Reporter

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Zuma must pay damages, apologise to Hanekom as judge finds him guilty of defamation

The former president has 24 hours to take down his tweet calling the NEC member a 'known enemy agent'.


At the High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday morning, Judge Dhaya Pillay ruled that former President Jacob Zuma’s tweet calling former minister and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Derek Hanekom a “known enemy agent” was defamatory and false.

Zuma now has 24 hours to take down the tweet. He must also now apologise to Hanekom.

It was also ruled that Zuma must pay damages, although the amount will only be determined in a future hearing at which oral evidence will be heard. The former minister is seeking half a million rand.

Judgment was reserved in the matter on August 23.

During proceedings in August, Zuma’s lawyers contended that their client had never actually said Hanekom was a double agent working for the apartheid regime.

They said that 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 added 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.

READ MORE: Derek Hanekom is ‘a known enemy agent’, says Zuma

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 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”.

Advocate Carol Steinberg, for Hanekom, addressed the court in August on the possible effect of calling someone “an apartheid spy”.

Steinberg said that although Hanekom denied he was an apartheid spy, the case was not about proving Zuma’s allegation but rather that the tweet had been defamatory.

During her argument, Steinberg said: “Mr Hanekom did not object to being called an ANC spy. In fact, he himself has said you kind of say that that’s what I did.”

She argued that Hanekom took this view because he had infiltrated the then South African Defence Force (SADF) “on behalf of the ANC” to send “instrumental information” to the party.

“Mr Hanekom went to jail for that, he went to jail for treason and he proudly says, ‘Yes, I played my part, you can call it a spy but I was a spy for the ANC,” Steinberg said.

She further said for someone who dedicated their life to the liberation movement to be called a spy “for the enemy, a spy for the other side” was defamatory.

Steinberg said Zuma’s tweet had led to him and his wife facing threats.

(Compiled by Daniel Friedman, Makhosandile Zulu and Charles Cilliers)

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