I was wary of Masetlha, Kasrils tells court

Former spy boss Billy Masetlha was described by Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils on Wednesday as ”misleading” and someone to be ”wary” of.

Kasrils was giving testimony in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court about his former director general.

Masetlha, former National Intelligence Agency [NIA] manager for electronic surveillance Funokwakhe Madlala and IT expert Muziwendoda Kunene are facing fraud charges relating to hoax emails implicating senior African National Congress members in a conspiracy against the party’s then-deputy president, Jacob Zuma.

The minister took the stand shortly after 3pm after the end of an in-camera session in the morning.

Kasrils’s comments were in response to defence counsel Neil Tuchten’s question to the minister as to when he started to wonder whether Masetlha was trustworthy.

”I am very pleased with the question. I was not aware of the surveillance of [businessman] Saki Macozoma at the end of 2005,” Kasrils told the court.

”I heard nothing from the director general,” he said.

He said he became wary of Masetlha after asking him for a report about the Macozoma issue. ”I began to become extremely wary … I asked Masetlha for a report,” said Kasrils.

After this he asked the inspector general to convene an investigation into the matter.

”His findings were alarming. Masetlha and two other NIA people had sought to mislead the minister,” said Kasrils.

In his testimony, Kasrils also referred to the presidential special investigation team set up in 2004 to look into leaks to the media. He said he had experienced some difficulty in receiving the report on the matter after Masetlha took over from former director general Vusi Mavimbela.

Tuchten argued that his client did not receive any word from the minister telling him that a report was necessary.

Touching on whether Masetlha could be trusted, Kasrils referred to the Khampepe Commission to which the NIA had to make a submission. He said Masetlha had drafted the initial submission to the commission, but that after he had seen it, he asked that it be reviewed.

Among some of the things mentioned in the report were the names of certain individuals who were training with foreign intelligence services. Kasrils said he asked Masetlha to review the report, and that this point, among others, be omitted. He said that it appeared as if the original report was leaked to the media while the revised document was submitted to the commission.

Earlier on Wednesday, the state requested the court to conduct proceedings in camera relating to an affidavit handed in by Kasrils.

State prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach said that a document forming part of the affidavit had been classified as ”top secret”, and that its contents could not all be regarded as truthful.

”It should be heard in camera. The report has been classified as top secret by Mr Kasrils. [It has] reference to many people; some of it is quite damaging.

”Persons involved hold very high office in the country. It is not necessarily based on fact,” said Breytenbach.

The trial continues on Thursday. — Sapa

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