President Jacob Zuma shakes his new State Security Minister, Bongani Bongo's hand after a swearing-in ceremony at Tuynhuys, Cape Town. Judge John Hlope presided over the ceremony.Photo: Chantall Presence / ANA

Cape Town - It is a matter of concern that - according to media reports on Sunday - newly appointed State Security Minister Bongani Bongo is being investigated by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) for his alleged involvement in fraud and corruption while he served as the head of legal services in the Mpumalanga human settlements department in 2012, the Democratic Alliance said.

"We will be submitting parliamentary questions to ascertain if Bongo was properly vetted by the State Security Agency (SSA) prior to being appointed, and how the SSA failed to detect (or ignored) this active investigation," DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said.

Bongo’s meteoric rise from African National Congress backbencher to state security minister in President Jacob Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle on October 17 set off alarm bells, he said.

The DA was now even more concerned knowing that the intelligence service was now headed by someone under active investigation by the Hawks.

"Jacob Zuma has a history of appointing dubious characters to head the intelligence services, none more so than Bongo’s predecessor David Mahlobo and SSA director general Arthur Fraser. The former was exposed as associating with self-confessed criminal and rhino horn smuggler Guan Jiang Guang by the Al Jazeera news channel in November 2016.

"The latter was re-appointed as spy boss despite his involvement in the ‘Principal Agent Network’, a covert project run by the NIA [National Intelligence Agency] between 2007 and 2010, which was tainted by allegations of misspending and prompted investigations into fraud and corruption by the SSA, the then inspector general of intelligence, and others," Steenhuisen said.

"If minister Bongo has indeed obtained this clearance despite the ongoing investigation it would mean President Zuma has sanctioned an unlawful breach of state security procedure for the sake of appointing his minister.

"Alternatively, if minister Bongo has not yet obtained the requisite security clearance for his new position it must be determined whether he has been given access to classified state information since his appointment in contravention of intelligence laws. We can no longer allow our intelligence services to be mired in endless controversy," Steenhuisen said.