Durban – Jacob Zuma’s lawyer told the Durban High Court on Friday that it made no sense to interdict the former president from saying something he may or may not say in the future.
“We don’t know the basis of Mr. Zuma’s testimony [when he returns to the state capture commission in October].
“You can’t interdict a witness from saying something in the future that he has not said. How can you interdict on things that are anticipated?” Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane asked Judge Dhaya Pillay.
Sikhakhane was arguing in the defamation suit brought by former minister and African National Congress National (ANC) National Executive Committee (NEC) member Derek Hanekom.
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, following an accusatory tweet from his former boss.
Earlier in proceedings, Advocate Carol Steinberg - acting for Hanekom - told the court that the tweet in which Zuma referred to Hanekom as a “known enemy agent”, when read together with the testimony that the former president gave at his first appearance before the Zondo commission, could lead to the inference that Hanekom was an “apartheid spy”.
Steinberg said that within the ANC, being branded an apartheid spy was the worst form of defamation possible, and was also dangerous.
But Sikhakhane said it was a “leap of logic” to attach the words “apartheid spy” to Zuma’s tweet.
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 while responding to comments made by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema who 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.
Zuma’s testimony at the Zondo commission – from 15 to 19 July - included that there was a wide-ranging decades long “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.
Sikhakhane said he invited Judge Pillay “to dispute the fact that the words apartheid spy are a reasonable interpretation of the statement that Mr. Zuma made [on twitter] or that he said them at all. ”
He said Steinberg’s argument was that if Zuma was speaking about apartheid spies at the Zondo commission, he must have been speaking about Hanekom.
This didn’t make sense, said Sikhakhane, as Zuma did not mention Hanekom’s name during his testimony, and spoke about many things - including several plots and plans.
“To infer from his ongoing testimony the justification for the interpretation is simply impermissible,” said Sikhakhane.
He said there was no factual basis for Hanekom and his counsel to state Zuma “insinuated” Hanekom was an apartheid spy.
Hanekom painted himself as a loyal ANC member, said Sikhakhane, but defied the party’s constitution by colluding to get rid of its elected leader by seeking help from political opponents.
He said once it was revealed that Hanekom had been colluding, the ANC issued a statement calling him a “wedge driver”.
Steinberg said earlier in proceedings that there was no argument necessary regarding this point, as Hanekom had made it clear he did not support Zuma and wanted him removed from office. It was public knowledge.
Besides the interdict, Hanekom also wants an apology from his former boss, retraction of the tweet and is seeking up to R500,000 in damages, saying he and his wife have received threats since the tweet was published.