State Security Minister David Mahlobo Picture: @MYANC/Twitter

Johannesburg - An unflinching State Security Minister David Mahlobo drew laughter from reporters on Tuesday when he announced that his department knew about violent protests in Vuwani, Limpopo, a year before they happened.

Mahlobo briefed media on the outcomes of the peace and stability subcommittee discussions at the ANC policy conference held in Johannesburg.

Talking about intelligence gathering, he said that an assessment of South Africa security for the past 23 years showed the country was "relatively safe."

"We must realise that when we have intelligence, we cannot scream and announce we have intelligence...for example, we had intelligence on Vuwani a year before it all happened," he said before giving journalists a terse look as they started laughing at him.

Mahlobo looked taken aback and then irritated by the reaction from the room full of journalists and live television cameras. ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa then interfered and asked the everyone to stop laughing.

Mahlobo said it seemed some journalists lacked grasp of issues judging by the type of questions they asked, and proceeded to explain how spooks operated.

"When we get intelligence we give it to the police, comrade Zizi here sat in that NEC when Limpopo leadership told us that they had information before it all happened. A number of people were arrested, our problem lies with prosecution," Mahlobo said.

"One of the things we're discussing is dealing with mobs....when a car is burnt, who do we arrest in that mob? Who do we blame for burning that car?" he asked.

Mahlobo was blamed for failure to prevent the violent protests that erupted again in Vuwani,in April this year, over a municipal demarcation decision. More than 25 schools were torched over a period of time as residents shut down teaching and learning in Vuwani and surrounding areas.