The appointment of Vusi Mavimbela, 44, as the new head of the National Intelligence Agency, was bound to further undermine the credentials of an already embattled institution, the Democratic Party said on Wednesday.

Mavimbela was appointed by Cabinet on Wednesday to replace Sizakhele Sigxashe as the NIA's director general.

Mavimbela, who was in exile in the former Soviet Union and German Democratic Republic, returned to South Africa and graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Social Science degree from the University of Natal.

From June 1994 to July 1998 he served as a political adviser to then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, and when Mbeki became president, Mavimbela became his special adviser on intelligence and security matters.

The DP's Richard Pillay said in a statement Mavimbela's only formal intelligence qualification was a Diploma in Intelligence Work, Security and Information Processing received from the infamous former East German Secret Service, the Stasi.

"Stasi's preferred method of operation was terror and torture - something which should have no place in a democratic South Africa."

Although the DP was relieved that Sigxashe had finally left the NIA, Mavimbela's appointment was bound to further undermine the credentials of an already embattled institution.

"In the light of the open admission by Minister Joe Nhlanhla that all government departments are going to be intelligence driven, this appointment is indeed ominous."

The DP believed that it was incumbent on Parliament's committee on intelligence to ensure that proper oversight was exercised.

Pillay said Sigxashe had failed to account for the problems that had bedevilled the NIA, including the widespread theft of computers and vehicles and the fact that many members were facing criminal charges, ranging from smuggling platinum to murder.

Cabinet has appointed Sigxashe as a special adviser to Nhlanhla. - Sapa