An enemy of Zuma is 'not synonomously an enemy of the ANC' - Hanekom's lawyer

Derek Hanekom. (Jaco Marais)
Derek Hanekom. (Jaco Marais)

Former Cabinet minister and senior ANC member Derek Hanekom's lawyer says an enemy of former president Jacob Zuma is not automatically an enemy of the African National Congress.

Hanekom's lawyer Carol Steinberg argued in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court on Friday that Hanekom went to jail for treason because he had served as an ANC spy during the apartheid era and years of political turmoil.

SCROLL | Hanekom defamation: Zuma's tweets were not about apartheid, but current political conflicts, say defence lawyers

But to call someone who fought for liberation "an enemy agent" is defamatory, submitted Steinberg.

She was arguing in court after Hanekom took Zuma to court to the tune of R500 000 for defamation following a tweet on July 25 which Zuma referred to Hanekom as a "known enemy agent".

Steinberg argued that they wanted to know who the enemy was according to Zuma.

"[Is it the] NEC of the ANC, EFF or other parties? NEC members colluded to remove him (Zuma)," she said.

"We submit that an ordinary reader will not understand the enemy, in this context, meant those who plotted against Zuma. Is Zuma suggesting that all of them (those who plotted to oust him) are agents of some darker force," Steinberg said.

"If you're an enemy of Mr Zuma, you're not synonymously an enemy of the ANC," said Hanekom in court papers.

READ | ANC should deal with Hanekom spy claims, not courts - Zuma

Steinberg said a party member was entitled to pursue others to remove a sitting president.

She suggested that Zuma also led party members when they removed former president Thabo Mbeki. They had no problem with Zuma saying that people who plotted against him while ANC president, were his enemies, she said.

'Known enemy agent'

Zuma's tweet followed the release of an ANC statement issued by secretary general Ace Magashule. In the statement, the party called Hanekom a "wedge driver" and "EFF sleeper".

On behalf of the ANC, Magashule accused Hanekom of being a "charlatan [who] is making his mark through his ownership of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation".

"Well, we say to him and other EFF sleepers in the ANC, this only makes the members of the NEC, PEC (provincial executive committee), REC (regional executive committee) and branches more determined to unite the ANC and deliver services to the people of South Africa. We will ride this storm of accusations and counter-accusations," read the statement.

They were reacting to EFF leader Julius Malema's claims that Hanekom had conspired with his party to oust Zuma via a motion of no confidence in the National Assembly.

In Zuma's answering affidavit, he denied that he had called Hanekom an apartheid spy.

Steinberg countered this by saying the reference to "known enemy agent" spoke directly to his reputation.

"He named and shamed apartheid spies at the Zondo commission. There must be a link between the two," she said, referring to Zuma's tweet and his testimony at the inquiry into state capture.

"He did not name Hanekom at the Zondo commission, but made a link to the names of the spies he revealed at the commission," she said.

'It is a lie'

Steinberg submitted that Hanekom and his wife had been threatened and abused on social media for being spies, following Zuma's tweet.

She said tweets from Zuma's followers, who responded to his tweet, suggested that those who had died during the times of political turmoil in the country had died because of Hanekom.

Steinberg said Zuma said in his answering affidavit that he never said Hanekom was a spy, but: "I might still go to the commission and say he is a spy."

She said Zuma had referred to Hanekom's time in exile in Zimbabwe, where he lost his passport, as being staged.

"Zuma has no evidence that Hanekom is a spy, because it's a lie," she said.

She submitted that Zuma's tweet was defamatory, false and had caused significant harm to Hanekom's reputation.

"We agree that he conspired to oust Zuma. Zuma must prove that his statement [that he was a known enemy agent] is substantially true," she said.

Steinberg said they wanted Zuma to delete the tweet from his Twitter account, apologise, and pay R500 000 in damages.

Zuma's legal team is currently responding to the submissions made by Hanekom's lawyers.

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