Bit of levity as spy boss grilled

Date: 01 Mar 2007
A Pretoria magistrate has pleaded with National Intelligence Inspector-General Zolile Ngcakani to extend his oversight duties to ensure that some of the country's spies pay maintenance for their children. Magistrate Dreyer van der Merwe's comments broke the tension inside the court followings hours of intense questioning of Ngcakani by lawyers representing axed National Intelligence Agency boss Billy Masetlha. Masetlha is facing a charge of withholding crucial intelligence information required in terms of the Intelligence Services Oversight Act, which Ngcakani needed in order to complete his inquiry into circumstances that led to the alleged illegal surveillance of top ANC member and businessman Saki Macozoma. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge. Yesterday marked the end of a hectic two days for Ngcakani, who had been pounded with questions by Masetlha's lawyers. Van der Merwe then made a passionate complaint to Ngcakani that a number of child maintenance cases involving NIA men before his court could not be finalised because the officials often refused to honour summonses under the pretext that coming to court would blow their cover. "Mr Ngcakani, I want to personally thank you for coming here, (especially because) it is rare for us to meet with top intelligence officials like you," said Van der Merwe. "Sometimes I and my assessor sit in the maintenance court … we are serious about the future of our children. But in most cases that we preside over, it struck us that some of your colleagues in the James Bond world of espionage like to impress young girls too much," said Van der Merwe, adding that once a girl was made pregnant, the spooks did what they were good at - disappear. "When summonsed to appear in court, we are always told that they cannot honour the summons because they are on a secret mission. Now Mr Ngcakani, can you, as the inspector-general of intelligence, also ask them to look after their children," he said to thunderous laughter. Earlier in the day, the defence relentlessly sought to poke holes in Ngcakani's evidence that Masetlha had broken any law or refused to provide any information. On Masetlha's instruction, it was argued that Ngcakani was used by Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils in an effort to destroy Masetlha. Ngcakani denied this. The succession battle in the ANC was also thrown in, with Masetlha's lawyers suggesting this also had a lot to do with the fallout between Masetlha, Kasrils and President Thabo Mbeki. This was again denied by Ngcakani. The hearing was due to continue today. By Thokozani Mitshali The Star 01/03/07