Intelligence Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has tasked her most senior official to investigate the whereabouts of top spy, Thulani Dlomo.
Dlomo, who previously headed the State Security Agency's controversial Special Operations (SO) unit, has apparently been AWOL since his return to the SSA earlier this year.
Dlomo was South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, but was recalled several months ago to resume his post at the SSA.
But he has not been seen or heard from since, sources at the SSA say.
The SSA was previously unable to confirm Dlomo’s whereabouts, citing employer-employee confidentiality.
This is still the case, the minister told News24 on Friday morning. But she said she has asked acting SSA Director-General Loyiso Jafta to look into the matter, "to determine what needs to be done".
Dlodlo said she could not discuss the details of Dlomo’s circumstances as this would be unlawful in terms of labour law.
The minister said that she had not personally seen Dlomo at work, but pointed out that he did not report to her, so this might not be significant. As Dlomo reports to Jafta, Dlodlo said the director-general would be best placed to update her on the issue.
Dlodlo said that she would then be in a position to determine whether action should be taken against Dlomo in terms of the Labour Relations Act and the SSA’s own internal policies.
She said that public servants typically were considered AWOL if they had not been at work for 30 days, but the rules were stricter for SSA employees, who are not employed in terms of the Public Service Act like other government employees. Dlodlo said Dlomo’s seniority would also be a factor in terms of how long he can miss work before being considered "AWOL", if this was found to be the case.
News24 reported on Wednesday that Dlomo had not been to the SSA’s headquarters in Pretoria, known as "The Farm", since his return from Japan. This is according to an impeccable source in the intelligence community.
Vrye Weekblad also reported in April that Dlomo had all but disappeared.
Dlomo’s appointment to the SSA in 2017 by former president Jacob Zuma was controversial, because he was allegedly implicated in a tender scandal while employed by the KwaZulu-Natal government.
The SO unit he had headed before his Japan posting received searing criticism from the High Level Panel on the State Security Agency, which released a report earlier this year into failings at the intelligence agency.
The report referred to the unit as a "law unto itself and directly served the political interests of the executive".
The panel named a number of "illegal" activities undertaken by the unit under Dlomo's watch. It said that the SO became a "parallel intelligence structure serving a faction of the ruling party and, in particular, the personal political interests of the sitting president of the party and the country. This is in direct breach of the Constitution, the White Paper, the relevant legislation and plain good government intelligence functioning".
The panel further recommended: "The findings of the panel and of the current investigation of the (inspector general) and the SO and related matters should form the basis for serious consequences and for those involved in illegal activity, including, where appropriate, disciplinary and/or criminal prosecution."