Sowetan Reporter and Sapa
President Thabo Mbeki is "satisfied" that the Pretoria high court turned down an application to reinstate former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director-general Billy Masetlha, his office said yesterday.
As always, Mbeki accepted the outcome of the judiciary, but was satisfied with the outcome of this particular case, said presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga.
In a judgment he took just minutes to hand down, Judge Ben du Plessis ruled that a breakdown of trust was a lawful reason for Mbeki's suspending and sacking of Masetlha.
Masetlha was suspended in October last year and dismissed in March, 21 months before the end of his contract.
A day after his dismissal Masetlha was implicated in a hoax e-mail saga in which fabricated communication interceptions made out that senior ANC members were involved in a conspiracy against the party's deputy president Jacob Zuma and secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe.
"It is self-evident that mutual trust must exist between the president and the heads of intelligence services.
"The breakdown constitutes a lawful basis for the president to have dismissed the applicant," Du Plessis found.
Mbeki had to work closely with and heavily rely on officials such as intelligence heads in making important decisions affecting the country's security.
It was in the interest of the president and the public to trust the head of the NIA, he found.
Masetlha had asked the court to overturn his dismissal with a finding that it was unlawful and invalid, but Du Plessis dismissed his application with costs.
Accompanied to court by bodyguards, Masetlha refused to comment on the outcome.
He first wanted to study the judgment, he said.
NIA spokesman Lorna Daniels said the department respected the judgment of the court.
"The court has decided and that settles the matter," said Daniels.
Mbeki has appointed Manala Manzini for a three-year term as director-general of the NIA.
Meanwhile, Masetlha has been charged - together with software salesman Muziwendoda Kunene and NIA electronic surveillance manager Funowakhe Madlala - with fraud involving R152000 relating to the hoax e-mails.
Their court appearance is scheduled for February 9.
Masetlha is out on bail of R10000.