State Security Minister David Mahlobo on Tuesday briefed the 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."
In an attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of the department, the minister told the media the government was aware of unhappiness in Vuwani, Limpopo before protests there happened. More than 20 schools were torched in 2016 over a few days as residents shut down teaching and learning in Vuwani and surrounding areas.
"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."David Mahlobo
Protesters were against government's decision to incorporate the area into LIM345, a municipality east of the township in Malamulele. In May, Vuwani residents agreed to be serviced by the Vhembe District Municipality, only after they were promised a solution would be found to their demarcation dispute.
"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.
But on Wednesday, Mahlobo clarified what he meant.
"I was not speaking as the minister of state security," he said. "The message I was sending was: sometimes journalists are not actually experts on the field, they want to jump to conclusions," he said.
Mahlobo said journalists often have no idea how the state security cluster functions.
"Some of our police are from those communities," he said.
On Tuesday, journalists in the room laughed at Mahlobo's comments, and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa had to intervene to ask reporters to stop laughing.
"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," the minister continued.
Mahlobo said it seemed some journalists lacked a grasp of issues judging by the type of questions they asked, he went on to explain the intelligence failure and why the situation was taken out if hand, apparently by the media.