Pity Samantha Owen, candidate attorney with Webber Wentzel, the legal firm representing ANC NEC member Derek Hanekom, who is suing former president Jacob Zuma for accusing him on Twitter of being an “enemy agent”.
Kafka himself would have poked his eyes out with a fondue fork had he been tasked with delivering court papers to the country’s Number One Artful Dodger and his legal representatives.
Briefly, Hanekom is suing Zuma for R500,000 in damages (as well as legal costs) after Zuma had posted a tweet on 25 July 2019 accusing the former Cabinet minister and ANC veteran of being an “enemy agent”. (That, dear reader, could mean anything from Hanekom fighting corruption and State Capture to his being a CIA/FBI/MI5/MI6 agent and/or Cabal Member 9877 and/or an apartheid spy.)
In a notice of motion dated 5 August 2019, Hanekom’s legal representatives informed the KZN High Court that the former minister intended to make an application to the court on 21 August with regard to Zuma’s defamatory statement.
One of the demands is for Zuma to remove the tweet within 24 hours and to publish “from his Twitter account @PresJGZuma” the following: “On 25 July 2019, I published a tweet which alleges that Mr Derek Hankeom is a known enemy agent. I unconditionally withdraw this allegation and apologise for making it as it is entirely false. I have no valid basis whatsoever for asserting that Mr Hanekom is a known enemy agent”.
While this is the heart of the matter, an affidavit by Webber Wentzel’s candidate attorney Samantha Owen, setting out her epic quest to deliver the court summons to Zuma/and or his attorney Lugisani Mantsha, is worth sharing almost in its entirety.
It highlights the former president’s remarkable Stalingrad superpowers, even now as the coils of justice are ever tightening.
In her affidavit, Owen sets out how on 29 July 2019 WW “delivered a letter of demand to Lugisani Mantsha Attorneys on behalf of Mr Zuma under cover of an email which stated that despite searching for any public record or other contact details, Webber Wentzel was not able to find the same, and as Mr Lugisani Daniel Mantsha of Lugisani Mantsha Attorneys is the last known attorney on record for Mr Zuma, Mr Mantsha was requested to accept service of the letter of demand, alternatively provide Webber Wentzel with contact details including an email address for Mr Zuma”.
The following day Mantsha responded that yes, indeed, his firm did act on behalf of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma. However, Mantsha explained, “So far, we have not received instructions from our client, we will revert back to you thereupon our client’s instruction.”
Of course, no alternative address was provided to WW “at which legal processes could be delivered to him [Zuma].”
Wrote Owen: “Out of an abundance of caution, Webber Wentzel conducted a Windeed director search of Mr Zuma, which revealed that Mr Zuma is an active director of Michigan Investments (registration number 1992/021981/23) and Amaqhawe Wase Africa Petroleum (registration number 2005/126985/23)” both of which are located in Killarney Johannesburg.
The Windeed director search revealed that Zuma also resided in Forest Town, Johannesburg.
On 30 July, Owen attempted to deliver the letter of demand on Zuma’s Killarney and Forest Town addresses.
“When I arrived at the Killarney address, I rang the bell for unit *** and asked if I may be allowed entry into the building so that I may deliver a letter of attention for Mr Zuma. I was informed by the woman who answered that Mr Zuma was in Nkandla. Furthermore, nobody at the Killarney address would accept the letter of demand.”
At the Forest Town address Owen was informed by a security guard on duty that she should “wait in my car for the person with the necessary authority to arrive”.
“I waited for approximately 40 minutes before asking the security guard and a woman who identified herself as a guest of the house whether the requisite person [Zuma] had arrived yet and was told he had not. The guest then took down my contact details and I was told that I would be called when the requisite person arrived.
“To date I have not received this call.”
After her attempts to deliver the letter of demand to the Killarney and Forest Town addresses failed, Owen instructed DBN Trace, a tracing agency located in Durban to confirm Zuma’s residential address.
“On 30 July 2019, DBN Trace confirmed that Mr Zuma’s residential address is the Zuma Homestead in Nkandla.”
And so it came to pass that on 31 July, a letter of demand “was delivered by the Sheriff at the Zuma Homestead in Nkandla as evidenced by the return of service attached. The letter of demand was thus delivered to both Mr Zuma’s attorney of record and Mr Zuma’s last known residential address.”
Over and above this and covering a few more bases, Owen, on 4 August 2019, delivered electronically Hanekom’s notice of motion and founding affidavit to Mantsha.
“Mr Mantsha was advised the application would be served on his offices by hand the following day,” wrote Owen.
“On 5 August 2019, I attempted to serve the application on Mr Mantsha’s offices by hand. I was told by Mr Mantsha’s personal assistant on his behalf that she was not allowed to accept service of the applicant because Mr Mantsha had not yet received instructions from Mr Zuma pursuant to Webber Wentzel’s letter of demand which was sent to Mr Mantsha on 29 July 2019.”
Not budging, Owen says that while she was still at Mantsha’s offices talking to the personal assistant, her principal, Pooja Dela, had phoned the PA.
Dela had requested to speak to “somebody at Mr Mantsha’s offices who is a senior person of authority. Ms Dela was told she would be transferred to a person named Yvonne. Ms Dela was then informed that Yvonne was ‘too busy’ to speak to her.”
“When it became apparent that nobody at Mr Mantsha’s offices would personally accept service of the application, I left the application on the reception desk at Mr Mantsha’s offices,” said Owen.
As Mantsha had confirmed on 30 July in a letter that he was JZ’s attorney, “this constituted proper service”.
“However, despite Mr Mantsha placing himself on record for Mr Zuma in the 30 July letter, he wrote a further letter to Webber Wentzel, in which he confirmed that he had received the application but that this application must be served on Mr Zuma personally at his place of residence, as he has no authority or instructions to receive the application.”
Azugzwang, as they say in chess.
On 6 August, a Tuesday, WW responded saying, no, Mantsha had already confirmed that he was acting for Zuma (on 30 July remember) AND that he had received the application (the day before).
“WW also pointed out that, despite requesting alternative contact details for Mr Zuma, Mr Mantsha had failed, alternatively refused, to provide these details despite being aware that urgent proceedings had been launched against Mr Zuma. Mr Mantsha was the last known attorneys of record for Mr Zuma and was in a position to bring the application, which Mr Mantsha knew to be urgent, to the attention of Mr Zuma.”
On the same day, Mantsha responded, repeating that he had no instructions from Zuma and added that the application “must be served on Mr Zuma at his residence in Nkandla”.
“Out of an abundance of caution, and despite not being under any obligation to do so, the application was served on Mr Zuma by the Sheriff at his residence in Nkandla, as evidenced by the return of service (attached),” said Owen with an abundance of caution.
But wait, that’s not all.
On 7 August 2019, WW informed Zuma “via a direct message to his official Twitter account @PresJGZuma, that the applicant had launched an urgent application against him and had served the application on his attorney Mr Mantsha and at his place of residence in Nkandla.”
Owen ends with: “It is clear from all of the above that the applicant has exhausted all means of ensuring that the application was duly served on Mr Zuma.”
Mr former president, consider yourself served. DM
PS: More to follow in Daily Maverick on the actual Hanekom affidavit.