South African ambassador, ANC veteran Billy Masetlha dies

South African ambassador, ANC veteran Billy Masetlha has died. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

South African ambassador, ANC veteran Billy Masetlha has died. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Published May 15, 2023


Former spy boss and South African ambassador Billy Masetlha has died following a long illness, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) confirmed on Sunday.

He was serving as South Africa’s ambassador to the Republic of Algeria when he died at age 68.

Masetlha has served the government in various capacities, including as director-general of the National Intelligence Agency. He left the agency in 2006, after former president Thabo Mbeki fired him when he was accused of spying on behalf of former president Jacob Zuma.

He was also was involved in the anti-apartheid movement, including as a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe and was part of the ANC national executive committee.

Masetlha was exiled in Botswana and Zambia. During that time, he worked with the youth and student organisations in the fight against the apartheid regime.

Masetlha was also a founding member of the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and played a role in the formation of the Azanian Student’s Organisation (Azaso).

Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa had lost an experienced and dependable representative and a firm believer in the ideals and goals of pan-Africanism.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ambassador Masetlha,” said Pandor.

On Sunday evening, the ANC said the party was “devastated” by the passing of the freedom fighter.

“Comrade Billy joined the Struggle at a very young age at a time when associating oneself with ANC attracted death and torture for an individual and their family,” it said.

Fellow MKMVA veteran Carl Niehaus shared a tribute to Masetlha on Twitter earlier, saying he was “heartbroken” to have received news about his death.

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