Derek Hanekom, right, smiles during proceedings on Friday, August 23 2109, at the high court in Durban, where he is challenging President Jacob Zuma for defamation claims Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU
Derek Hanekom, right, smiles during proceedings on Friday, August 23 2109, at the high court in Durban, where he is challenging President Jacob Zuma for defamation claims Picture: SANDILE NDLOVU

Former president Jacob Zuma’s advocate says the reaction of Twitter users to Zuma’s tweet that former minister Derek Hanekom was a “known enemy agent” cannot be considered the response of “a reasonable person”. 

Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane maintains that Zuma was not referring to Hanekom as an apartheid spy with that tweet, which Hanekom insists strongly insinuates that he was working for the apartheid state.

Hanekom’s advocate, Carol Steinberg, maintains that, given that Zuma had described a foreign intelligence plot against him just a week before he tweeted about Hanekom, “any reasonable person” would interpret him as identifying Hanekom as an apartheid spy.

She further argued that Hanekom and his wife Trish, who are both in court on Friday for Hanekom’s urgent defamation case against Zuma, had been subjected to social media threats as a consequence of Twitter users believing that he was an apartheid spy.

But Sikhakhane is not convinced.

“I don’t think that a person who wants to describe every detail of his life and communicate what they think on social media every second of the day is reasonable,” he argued in the Durban high court on Friday afternoon.

Sikhakhane insists that Zuma was referring to Hanekom as his known foe, a man who has admitted to working with the EFF to remove the former president from office.

“Mr Hanekom does not deny that he colluded with the EFF to remove the leader of his own party,” he says.

Sikhakhane says it was Hanekom who claimed he had been referred to as an apartheid spy and “had picked up a dagger and stabbed himself”. 

In response to questions from judge Dhaya Pillay, Sikhakhane said the “enemy” that Zuma referred to was the EFF and other opposition parties.

Zuma posted his disputed tweet in response to allegations from EFF leader Julius Malema that Hanekom had “plotted” with the EFF “to bring down Zuma”. Malema further claimed that Hanekom had provided the EFF with “the list of the ANC MPs who were going to vote with us in the vote of no confidence against Jacob Zuma”. 

Zuma responded by tweeting: “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”. 

In court papers, Zuma states: “As my tweet demonstrates, my removal as head of state was part of a broader plan by those opposed to the wishes and objectives of the party that deployed me as head of state.” 

Hanekom wants Zuma to be ordered to delete and apologise for his “known enemy agent” tweet, and to pay R500,000 in damages. He also wants him to be interdicted from accusing him of being an agent or apartheid spy in the future.

The hearing continues.