Cape Town - The Department of Home Affairs rubbished claims that Public Protector nominee Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane worked for the State Security Agency (SSA) while stationed at the South African embassy in China.
''That's not true," department spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said on Wednesday after the DA dropped the bombshell claim that she had been a spy when posted to China for the department.
''She worked for State Security after working for the Department of Home Affairs,'' said Tshwete.
''She never worked for State Security [while with home affairs]."
Mkhwebane declared her job as an analyst at the SSA in her interview with the parliamentary committee tasked with choosing somebody to succeed outgoing Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.
During her interview, she responded to a question by DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach, who asked whether the job at the SSA was a demotion from being a director at home affairs.
Mkhwebane said she did not consider it a demotion and briefly touched on what she did at the SSA.
''Going then to work in the SSA is to make sure then that we protect the Constitution. I mean it's still constitutional matters, it's making sure the Constitution is protected.
''...Again, working there is to make sure that I use my expertise which I got at the Department of Home Affairs in refugee law and immigration law since you know that the country, sometimes we are faced with challenges of immigration, the challenge of refugees.''
She had earlier explained her vast experience in international immigration law and refugee and human rights law.
When contacted by News24, Mkhwebane said simply ''I have no comment''.
Mkhwebane told City Press earlier that the DA’s claim that she worked for the SSA during her tenure in China had taken her by surprise.
Her link to the SSA – in July 2016 when she took up employment as an analyst – had been publicly disclosed during interview proceedings before the parliamentary ad hoc selection committee, she told City Press.
“I don’t see any issue working at the SSA, which is a state institution.”
Mkhwebane needs 60% of the vote in the National Assembly for her name to be recommended to President Jacob Zuma as the next candidate. The DA has indicated that it would not support her nomination.
Some reports on her stint at the SSA have suggested a link between the SSA and an apparent campaign by an ANC faction to support Zuma through his travails.
Mkhwebane would not be the first to be accused of being a spy, or a Zuma sympathiser ahead of appointment.
Madonsela was accused of working for the US's Central Intelligence Agency by the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans' Association and former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils was accused of setting Zuma up for a rape charge.