Battle of legal wits at Masetlha hearing

Technical arguments and a clash of wits played out yesterday in the Hatfield community court, where the case against Billy Masetlha, former NIA director- general, was heard.

Technical arguments and a clash of wits played out yesterday in the Hatfield community court, where the case against Billy Masetlha, former NIA director- general, was heard.

Masetlha is accused of withholding evidence from NIA's inspector-general Zolile Ngcakani relating to alleged hoax e-mails implicating senior ANC members in a conspiracy against the party's deputy president Jacob Zuma and its secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe.

Ngcakani's legal advisor, Jay Govender was in the witness stand for the state. Govender said in her evidence there had been a flurry of letter-writing between her and Masetlha's legal team asking them to provide information to Ngcakani and to submit their client for an interview.

"We received no cooperation from the accused," she testified.

She said there were conditions set by Masetlha's legal team before agreeing to an interview.

Masetlha's advocate, Neil Tuchten said the major problem was that Masetlha wanted his legal team present when Ngcakani's team interviewed his client.

But Govender said they could not agree to that.

"Our concern was that there might be classified information the legal representatives were not privy to," she said.

Much of her testimony was looked at in great technical detail by magistrate Dreyer van der Merwe.

At one stage the magistrate asked where a comma was in a sentence in the Oversight Act, the act that required Masetlha to hand over evidence to Ngcakani.

There was also a battle of wits between Govender and Tuchten.

In one exchange Tuchten said he felt Govender's recollection of a certain fact was faulty, but shortly after he withdrew his remark.

"No, Miss Govender, I withdrew my criticism because my recollection might be faulty," he said.

The case was postponed to June 12. - Sapa

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