Former president Jacob Zuma has been denied leave to appeal a decision that a tweet calling previous cabinet minister Derek Hanekom “a known spy agent” was defamatory, false and unlawful.
Durban high court judge Dhaya Pillay made the decision against Zuma in September, requesting that he removes the tweet and openly apologise.
She likewise prohibited him from publishing any further explanation “that implies that Hanekom is or was an enemy agent or apartheid spy”, but she said this didn’t have any significant bearing to any future evidence Zuma may give at the Zondo commission into state catch.
The judge requested that Zuma pay Hanekom damages, the measure of which to be determined at a trial at which oral evidence would be led.
The leave to appeal damages was heard for this present week.
Zuma’s legal team presented that the tweet was made with regards to “heated and robust” political debate.
They persevered with the case that he had not expected to imply that Hanekom was an apartheid spy, however, that he was an “enemy agent” since he had worked with individuals inside and outside the ANC to remove Zuma as president.
It was additionally contended that the court request was “drastic” and limited Zuma’s right to freedom of expression.
In her decision on Thursday, judge Pillay said neither one of the parties had needed to lead proof.”
“They narrowed down the issue as to whether or not a reasonable person would understand the tweet to mean that Mr Hanekom was an apartheid spy.
“Counsel for Mr Zuma accepts that the tweet is open to several interpretations. But they said he chose his words carefully and if he intended to call him an apartheid spy he would have done just that.”
She pointed out that in Zuma’s affidavit in the case, he had insulted Hanekom, saying his entire life had been “duplicitous”, describing him as a two-faced person, the antithesis of a struggle activist.
“These embellishments fortify the interpretation (of the court) about the tweet … It is not probable that ordinary, right-thinking readers would have been left with the interpretation Zuma said he wished to say.”
She said the order would not stifle debate or freedom of expression.
She had started her judgment on the merits with a quote from Oliver Tambo, because it was appropriate to remind both parties what their leader had said about “wedge driving”.
“If South Africa could negotiate itself out of the quagmire of apartheid, a starting point should be that no conflict is unsolvable. If successful, it could shift the dispute into problem-solving.
“But that is for them to choose. This is not a directive of the court, but an option for the parties and their advisers to consider.”
She said the appeal had no prospects of success and dismissed the application, ordering Zuma to pay the costs.