Former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) director-general Billy Masetlha has died at the age of 68. Masetlha, who served as South Africa’s ambassador to Algeria, passed away on Sunday after a long illness. According to News24, his demise has left the nation mourning the loss of an experienced and reliable representative deeply committed to Pan-Africanism ideals.
Expressing condolences on behalf of the government, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor acknowledged Ambassador Masetlha’s contributions. They stated, “We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ambassador Masetlha.” Minister Pandor confirmed the news of his passing and highlighted his remarkable service to the country in various capacities, including his tenure as the director-general of the NIA.
Masetlha’s career took a controversial turn in 2006 when former President Thabo Mbeki dismissed him from the NIA amidst allegations of spying on behalf of former President Jacob Zuma. Mbeki cited a trust deficit as the reason for Masetlha’s termination. However, Masetlha’s commitment to public service remained steadfast despite this setback. He continued actively involved in the African National Congress (ANC), serving as a senior leader and earning multiple positions on the party’s national executive committee.
Before his involvement in intelligence work, Masetlha played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle as part of Umkhonto weSizwe and experienced exile in Botswana and Zambia. He was also a founding member of the Congress of South African Students. He actively participated in political organizations such as the Azanian Students Organisation and the Soweto Students Representatives Council. In the late 1970s, he decided to leave his home country and go into exile.
The passing of Ambassador Billy Masetlha marks the end of an era for South Africa’s intelligence community and political landscape. His dedication, experience, and commitment to serving his nation will be remembered and honoured by those who know him.