'Reasons for tailing Macozoma was suspicious and reeked of a cover-up'

Ronnie Kasrils. © Sowetan.
Ronnie Kasrils. © Sowetan.

Sipho Masombuka

Sipho Masombuka

Reasons given by former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director-general Billy Masetlha for the surveillance of ANC businessman Saki Macozoma raised suspicions of a cover-up, the specialised commercial crimes court in Pretoria heard yesterday.

This was said by Minister for Intelligence Services Ronnie Kasrils during his cross-examination by Masetlha's lawyer, Neil Tuchten.

Kasrils said Masetlha gave as his reason for spying on Macozoma the businessman's alleged links with a certain foreign intelligence agent.

The NIA had apparently received information in 2004 that the operative would arrive in SA, and NIA operatives set in motion a plan to intercept the agent but lost trace of him at the airport.

"The story given to me was that the agent was later spotted exchanging greetings with Macozoma in a coffee bar, then NIA dispatched 11 operatives to spy on Macozoma," said Kasrils.

Kasrils said the fact that the agent was seen in the same coffee bar in which Macozoma was at the time did not necessarily mean they had links.

"These foreign agents are highly sociable people who you would find at weddings and other social places or gatherings. They are not your backyard spooks," said Kasrils.

Kasrils was testifying in the R152000 fraud case against Masetlha, IT specialist Muziwendoda Kunene and former NIA electronic surveillance manager Funokwakhe Madlala.

They are accused of fabricating e-mails that were presented to President Thabo Mbeki as proof of intercepted communications between top ANC and government officials.

The e-mails allegedly plotted to stop Jacob Zuma and then ANC general secretary Kgalema Motlanthe from being elected to top positions.

According to Kasrils, it emerged that Masetlha was central to the origins and dissemination of the "hoax" e-mails.

The case was postponed to September 18.