Derek Hanekom at the Durban High Court in August. The court ruled on Friday that Hanekom had won his defamation case against former president Jacob Zuma. File photo: ANA/Leon Lestrade

JOHANNESBURG - The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation has welcomed Durban High Court Judge Dhaya Pillay’s ruling on the defamation case lodged by Ahmed Kathrada Foundation chairperson Derek Hanekom against former president Jacob Zuma.

Pillay on Friday ruled that the allegations made by Zuma about Hanekom were defamatory, false, and unlawful. Zuma was ordered by the judge to, within 24 hours, delete the tweet in which he called Hanekom an enemy agent and to tweet a public apology to Hanekom stating: “On 25 July 2019, I published a tweet which alleges that Derek Hanekom is a known enemy agent. I unconditionally withdraw this allegation and apologise for making it as it is false.”

In welcoming the judgment, Hanekom said in a statement issued by the foundation, “I am pleased that Judge Pillay has ruled that the statement of the former president is defamatory and false and that the phrase 'known enemy agent', in the context in which it was used, would imply 'apartheid spy'.”

Hanekom said it was disingenuous of Zuma's legal counsel to argue that what was meant was that meeting with the secretary general of the Economic Freedom Fighters, at his request, was the action of an “enemy agent”. He said it was not unusual for members of different political parties in Parliament to meet with each other.

Ahmed Kathrada Foundation executive director Neeshan Balton welcomed the judgment. “As a result of Zuma’s allegation, Hanekom has had to endure a massive backlash and abuse at the hands of keyboard warriors, where his credentials as an anti-apartheid activist were brought into question. The judgment sends a strong message to others to steer clear from making baseless allegations.

“We further commend Hanekom for indicating that should damages from the case be awarded, it would be given to Corruption Watch to continue its great work of combatting corruption, one of the greatest scourges plaguing our democracy at all levels.

“This case should serve as a timely reminder that even former presidents need to know that words have consequences and that our independent judiciary will not defend the abuse of freedom of speech, irrespective of the personalities behind such utterances,” Balton said.

African News Agency