Zuma faces da­m­ages hear­ing af­ter his ap­peal bid over Hanekom tweet fails

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Karyn Maughan

For­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s failed bid to ap­peal against the rul­ing that he de­famed for­mer min­is­ter Derek Hanekom by call­ing him an en­emy agent paves the way for him to face a da­m­ages hear­ing and grilling on the stand.

Zuma’s lawyers are con­sid­er­ing their op­tions, af­ter the Supreme Court of Ap­peal dis­missed his ef­forts to chal­lenge another court’s rul­ing in Hanekom’s favour with costs.

The high court in Dur­ban found that “there is no rea­son­able prospects of suc­cess in an ap­peal and there is no other com­pelling rea­son why an ap­peal should be heard”.

Un­less Zuma seeks to ap­peal against Judge Dhaya Pillay’s rul­ing in the Con­sti­tu­tional Court, the for­mer pres­i­dent will have 24 hours to re­move the tweets and to apol­o­gise for mak­ing the “false and defam­a­tory state­ment”, ac­cord­ing to Hanekom’s lawyers, Dario Milo and Pooja Dela-Cron.

In ad­di­tion to the pos­si­ble po­lit­i­cal hu­mil­i­a­tion of be­ing forced to pub­licly apol­o­gise to Hanekom, any po­ten­tial de­ci­sion by Zuma not to ap­peal to the Con­sti­tu­tional Court means that he will face a defama­tion da­m­ages trial. Hanekom has ar­gued that Zuma should be or­dered to pay R500,000 in da­m­ages to him, which he said would be do­nated to char­ity.

Be­cause so much of the ev­i­dence in the Hanekom defama­tion saga has been fun­da­men­tally dis­puted by both sides in the case, both Zuma and Hanekom could be forced to tes­tify and face cross-ex­am­i­na­tion.

The an­i­mos­ity be­tween the two runs deep, with Hanekom emerg­ing dur­ing Zuma’s scan­dal-scarred pres­i­dency as one of the most vo­cal crit­ics within the ANC, of­ten at­tract­ing the ire of other na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers.

As far back as 2016, he tabled among party struc­tures a mo­tion of no con­fi­dence in Zuma.

‘APARTHEID SPY’

Zuma’s lawyers had pre­vi­ously ar­gued Pillay’s judg­ment, which barred the for­mer pres­i­dent from ac­cus­ing Hanekom of be­ing a “known en­emy agent” or “apartheid spy”, was an un­con­sti­tu­tional re­stric­tion of Zuma’s right to free speech.

They also con­tended that the judg­ment would have a “chill­ing ef­fect” on his obli­ga­tions to tes­tify be­fore the Zondo in­quiry into state cap­ture, where he has pre­vi­ously ac­cused sev­eral of his for­mer min­is­ters of po­ten­tially be­ing apartheid spies.

In­quiry spokesper­son Mbuyiselo Stemela con­firmed that the com­mis­sion’s le­gal team was per­sist­ing with its ap­pli­ca­tion to com­pel Zuma to tes­tify.

Stemela said com­mis­sion chair, deputy chief jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo had not yet met Zuma’s doc­tor about the al­leged se­ri­ous med­i­cal is­sues that had led to the for­mer pres­i­dent pre­vi­ously fail­ing to ap­pear.

Hanekom took ur­gent le­gal ac­tion against Zuma af­ter the for­mer pres­i­dent re­ferred to him as a “known en­emy agent” on Twit­ter in July 2019.

Dur­ing his ev­i­dence be­fore Zondo, Zuma blamed all his le­gal and po­lit­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties on a three-decade plot hatched against him by two for­eign in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and apartheid agents.

He said these forces were in­tent on as­sas­si­nat­ing his char­ac­ter, and had at­tempted to kill him on sev­eral oc­ca­sions be­cause he knew the iden­ti­ties of “agents” planted in the ANC.

Days af­ter giv­ing that tes­ti­mony, and in re­sponse to EFF leader Julius Malema’s state­ment that Hanekom had given his party a list of ANC MPs who would side with them in a par­lia­men­tary vote of no con­fi­dence against the then pres­i­dent, Zuma tweeted that he was not sur­prised be­cause the lat­ter was “a known en­emy agent”.

Zuma’s lawyers have in­sisted his tweet about Hanekom was writ­ten “in the con­text of the undis­puted al­le­ga­tions” by Malema that Hanekom had taken part in plots to top­ple Zuma, and that the for­mer pres­i­dent had never said he was an apartheid spy.

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