Masetlha: Court rules for Mbeki

The Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that President Thabo Mbeki did have the power to sack former Intelligence director general Billy Masetlha.

The Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that President Thabo Mbeki did have the power to sack former Intelligence director general Billy Masetlha.

The president had the power to terminate his employment under Section 209 of the Constitution, read with Section 3 of the Intelligence Services Act, according to the judgment.

The court was not unanimous, but the majority judgment said decisions on "matters of great public moment could depend on the value of the intelligence provided".

"A great deal of subjective discretion is therefore necessarily built into the appreciation by the president of the work of the head of the NIA. Absent the trust, the core of the relationship is negated."

This finding, written by judge Albie Sachs, continued: "In the circumstances, then, I would hold that the president was lawfully entitled to amend the terms of the appointment to bring it to an immediate end."

The judgment found the basis for Masetlha's dismissal was an irretrievable breakdown of trust, and not dismissal for misconduct.

The court ordered that Masetlha be allowed to negotiate remuneration and benefits he would have received for the remainder of his three-year contract.

Speaking outside the court, Masetlha told reporters: "I am absolutely elated that I have been found not to have acted unlawfully and without integrity.

He added: "Throughout this period (I have said) that I am innocent. Unfortunately, now I will have some Rooibos tea because I don't have any money.

"I hope to be paid out before Christmas because I'm going to take a long holiday."

He said any settlement must be negotiated. "They must not even put money in my account. I will throw it out."

He said 19 months without any payment had been difficult for his family and for him as head of the family.

"It has not been easy."

Masetlha was suspended in October 2005 by Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils and dismissed in March 2006 by Mbeki.

A day later he was implicated in a hoax e-mail saga in which he allegedly fabricated communication interceptions made out that senior African National Congress members were involved in a conspiracy against the party's deputy leader, Jacob Zuma. - Sapa

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