Former President Jacob Zuma’s legal woes continued on Thursday as he lost his bid to appeal a High Court ruling on his “enemy agent” tweet about former minister Derek Hanekom.
Judge Dhaya Pillay of the High Court in Pietermaritzburg dismissed Zuma’s application with costs.
He said, “In the opinion of this court an appeal of judgment would have no reasonable prospects of success before another court.”
In July, Zuma tweeted that Hanekom was “a known enemy agent” following a revelation by Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema that he had met them to discuss Zuma’s removal from office.
He wrote, “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.”
Hanekom subsequently hauled the former President to court for defamation. He demanded a retraction, apology and R500,000 in damages.
Although Zuma opposed Hanekom’s lawsuit, he lost in early September. The court ruled that the tweet was “untrue, defamatory and unlawful.”
It also ordered Zuma to delete the tweet and publish an apology to Hanekom. However, Zuma filed leave to appeal, which has now been dismissed.
‘Out of context’
In a hearing earlier this week, Zuma’s lawyer Thabani Masuku argued that the tweet had been taken out of context.
Zuma’s legal team had also argued that said his “enemy agent” comment only referred to how Hanekom “connived with enemies and opposition parties” to remove him as president.
However, Hanekom’s lawyer Carol Steinberg argued that “enemy agent” suggested that Hanekom was an apartheid spy.
She said the former minister was therefore “naturally upset” at the suggestion because he was among those who fought against apartheid.
It’s unclear at this stage what Zuma’s next legal step would be. If he fails to take his appeal further, he would be compelled to pay damages to Hanekom. The court is yet to determine the amount.
Zuma also recently lost his bid for a permanent stay of prosecution in his corruption trial. He has filed leave to appeal that ruling as well.