Zuma must apol­o­gise to Hanekom — court

• Judge de­nies defama­tion find­ing would sti­fle free­dom of ex­pres­sion

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Tania Broughton /With Karyn Maughan

For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has been de­nied leave to ap­peal against a rul­ing that a tweet call­ing for­mer cabi­net minister Derek Hanekom “a known en­emy agent” was defam­a­tory, false and un­law­ful.

For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has been de­nied leave to ap­peal against a rul­ing that a tweet call­ing for­mer cabi­net minister Derek Hanekom “a known en­emy agent” was defam­a­tory, false and un­law­ful.

Dur­ban high court judge Dhaya Pil­lay made the rul­ing against Zuma in Septem­ber, or­der­ing that he re­move the tweet and pub­licly apol­o­gise. She also in­ter­dicted him from pub­lish­ing any fur­ther state­ment “that im­plies that Hanekom is or was an en­emy agent or apartheid spy” but said this did not ap­ply to any fu­ture ev­i­dence Zuma might give at the Zondo com­mis­sion into state cap­ture.

The judge or­dered that Zuma pay Hanekom dam­ages, the amount of which would have to be de­ter­mined at a trial at which oral ev­i­dence would be led. The leave to ap­peal ar­gu­ment was heard this week.

Zuma’s le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives sub­mit­ted that the tweet was made in the con­text of “heated and ro­bust” political de­bate.

They per­sisted with the claim that he had not in­tended to mean that Hanekom was an apartheid spy but that he was an “en­emy agent” be­cause he worked with peo­ple in­side and out­side the ANC to oust Zuma as pres­i­dent.

It was also ar­gued that the court or­der was “dras­tic” and limited Zuma’s right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

In her rul­ing on Thurs­day, Pil­lay said nei­ther party had wanted to lead ev­i­dence.

“They nar­rowed down the is­sue as to whether or not a rea­son­able per­son would un­der­stand the tweet to mean that Mr Hanekom was an apartheid spy.

“Coun­sel for Mr Zuma ac­cepts that the tweet is open to sev­eral in­ter­pre­ta­tions. But they said he chose his words care­fully and if he in­tended to call him an apartheid spy he would have done just that.”

Pil­lay pointed out that in Zuma’s af­fi­davit in the case, he had in­sulted Hanekom, say­ing that his en­tire life had been “duplicitou­s”, de­scrib­ing him as a two-faced per­son, the an­tithe­sis of a strug­gle ac­tivist.

“These em­bel­lish­ments for­tify the in­ter­pre­ta­tion [of the court] about the tweet ... It is not prob­a­ble that or­di­nary, right­think­ing read­ers would have been left with the in­ter­pre­ta­tion Zuma said he wished to say.”

The judge said the or­der would not sti­fle de­bate or free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

Re­gard­ing crit­i­cism by Zuma’s le­gal team that she had stepped into the political arena, she said the war be­tween the two vet­eran ANC mem­bers had been re­ferred to dur­ing the hear­ing and in the pa­pers.

She said the ap­peal had no prospects of suc­cess and dis­missed the ap­pli­ca­tion, or­der­ing Zuma to pay the costs.

His lawyers no­ti­fied Hanekom’s at­tor­neys that Zuma will pe­ti­tion the Supreme Court of Ap­peal for the right to ap­peal the rul­ing.

PIL­LAY POINTED OUT THAT IN ZUMA’S AF­FI­DAVIT, HE HAD IN­SULTED HANEKOM, SAY­ING THAT HIS EN­TIRE LIFE HAD BEEN ‘DUPLICITOU­S’

Derek Hanekom

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