Cape Town - The State Security Agency (SSA) has said all 14 Public Protector candidates were screened for background checks, and that no request had been made for Kevin Malunga when he was first appointed as Deputy Public Protector in 2012.
A 10-member Parliamentary committee conducted interviews on Thursday with all 14 candidates hoping to take the reins held by outgoing Thuli Madonsela in October.
During Malunga's interview, the committee raised the matter of his security clearance. A report compiled by the SSA containing his clearance status was delivered in a letter on August 4.
The SSA said in the letter that Malunga, who was born in Zimbabwe, did not meet the requirements for top secret security clearance, due to his current status as a naturalised citizen.
He was naturalised in 2010, having denounced his Zimbabwean citizenship, and would only be eligible to gain full clearance after 20 years.
Malunga though has been Madonsela's deputy for the last three-and-a-half years - since December 2012.
Request for screening for all candidates
SSA spokesperson Brian Dube told News24 on Friday that the agency only processes background checks after a request from clients, and no request was made when Malunga was first appointed.
"The SSA acted on a request from Parliament to conduct a screening process on all 14 candidates," he said.
"A report with comments pertaining to all candidates including outcomes of the screening process was submitted to Parliament.
"The SSA, amongst others, acts on requests from client departments on the screening or vetting of candidates.
"No request was received when he was initially appointed."
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach meanwhile said Malunga's security clearance was no reflection on his candidacy for the top job, nor is it a reflection of his character.
Breytenbach is part of the 10-member Parliamentary committee tasked with interviewing all the candidates.
'Still meets requirements for job'
She told News24 on Friday that the security clearance was something the committee "has to deal with", but the final recommendation to the National Assembly still lies with them.
"The issue of the security clearance is no reflection on him, nor his integrity, nor a reflection of his candidacy," she said.
"There is nothing in the Public Protector Act that specifies that it is a requirement.
"He still meets the statutory requirements for the post."
Breytenbach said it would be "patently unfair" to make Malunga's clearance a requirement now, when it was not an issue when he was appointed as deputy.
Committee spokesperson Temba Gubula said in a statement on Friday that the SSA letter had not only been used for Malunga's interview, but that information contained in the letter had also been used in the interviews of the other candidates as well.
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe meanwhile refuted committee member Phumzile van Damme's remark that Malunga had worked under Radebe as a speech writer in the Justice department.
"The office of Minister Radebe refutes the statement or any inference made that Advocate Malunga served as adviser to Minister Radebe or wrote any speeches for the Minister in any capacity," a department statement read on Friday afternoon.
"He was appointed as researcher in the Office of the Chief Justice on contract in 2010 and was part of the initial staff complement that provided administrative support the newly established office of the Chief Justice."
*Note: This article has been updated. The last three paragraphs were added after publication.