Former tourism minister and ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom, with anti-apartheid stalwart and ANC veteran Sunny Singh, at the Durban High Court. Picture: African News Agency/ANA.

Durban – Legal counsel for African National Congress heavyweight Derek Hanekom told the Durban High Court on Friday that her client wore the badge of being considered an ANC spy with pride, but found it defamatory and dangerous that former president Jacob Zuma had inferred he was an apartheid spy.

“Mr Hanekom went to jail for treason because he was deemed an ANC spy, he is proud to have played his part. But to be called a spy for the enemy is as defamatory as it gets,” Advocate Carol Steinberg told the court.

Hanekom attended proceedings with his wife Trish, son Braam and supporters that included former minister Barbara Hogan and anti-apartheid stalwart Sunny Singh.

Zuma – who is opposing the motion - was not present. 

Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, along with Daniel Mantsha and Thabani Masuku, represented the former president.

National Executive Committee (NEC) member Hanekom brought the defamation case against Zuma for a tweet wherein his one time boss referred to him as a “known enemy agent”.

Zuma tweeted on July 25 to his more than 300 000 followers: “I’m not surprised by @Julius_S_Malema revelations regarding @Derek_Hanekom. It is part of the plan I mentioned at the Zondo Commission. @Derek_Hanekom is a known enemy agent.”

Zuma made the statement in response to statements made by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema.

Malema had said that Hanekom was part of a group of ANC members who were seeking to oust Zuma through a vote of no confidence when he was still president, and had sought help from other parties. The vote failed.

Steinberg said this was irrelevant. It was known that Hanekom was not a supporter of Zuma and that he wanted him removed from office. The problem was how ordinary citizens would link Zuma’s tweet to his testimony at the commission of inquiry into state capture and infer Hanekom was an "apartheid spy".

Zuma’s testimony at the commission – from 15 to 19 July - included that there was a wide-ranging and decades old “conspiracy” by national and international agencies, groups and individuals – including apartheid era spies – who had infiltrated the governing party and were dead set on removing him from power in the ANC and from government.  

Steinberg said that if the tweet was taken in context with the former president’s statements at the commission, the inference was clear.

“Even without the reference to the Zondo commission, when one senior member of the ANC calls another member a known enemy agent, the most likely meaning is an apartheid spy,” said Steinberg.

Hanekom is seeking to interdict Zuma from publishing any statement that says or implies that he is or was an enemy agent or an apartheid spy. 

He also wants an apology, retraction of the tweet and is seeking up to R500,000 in damages, saying he and his wife have received threats since the tweet.  

Zuma is opposing the matter, having stated in his responding affidavit that he had never mentioned Hanekom’s name at the Zondo commission, and that it was Hanekom who referred to himself as an apartheid spy in his own affidavit.

“[Hanekom’s] attempt to fudge the two is mischievous as he seeks to prevent me from continuing with the revelations I seek to make before the Zondo commission. This may or may not include him, but for the present purposes, my tweet has nothing to do with whether or not he was an apartheid spy,” said Zuma in his responding affidavit.

Advocate Sikhakhane is set to make his representations following Steinberg.

African News Agency/ANA