STATE Security Minister David Mahlobo has come under fire from opposition MPs for an apparent failure to foresee the xenophobic attacks of recent weeks and a vague security policy.

He was also sharply criticised for the alleged leaks of department documents to TV channel Al Jazeera and again for allowing a signal jamming device into the National Assembly before President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address in February.

Mr Mahlobo said the xenophobic attacks had started as an industrial dispute and that the State Security Agency had played a role in raids on criminal "havens" within affected communities.

He warned that international terrorism, cybercrime and globalisation had worsened worldwide security concerns to unacceptably dangerous dimensions.

While delivering his budget vote in an extended committee of the National Assembly on Tuesday, he said terrorism had moved to centre stage in the security discourse.

The agency’s priorities included enhancing institutional cyber-security capacity; finalising national cyber-security policy; presenting the Cyber Security Bill before the Cabinet and strengthening co-operation with regional bodies.

The agency’s budget vote comes in the wake of the Garissa massacre in Kenya and other acts of terror on the continent that have raised security red flags.

Mr Mahlobo said: "Our own experience wherein a 15-year-old girl was lured into ISIS (Islamic State) is further testimony of this stark reality. Our quick intervention in this regard, working closely with the law enforcement agencies, ensured that we can prevent this from happening.

"As we have indicated, there is a global trend of online recruitment, which targets mainly young people active on social media platforms."

He repeated the agency’s message for broader society to be vigilant and exercise caution when engaging on various platforms provided in cyberspace.

He said the State Security Agency would engage the social cluster of government departments about public campaigns aimed at informing South Africans about the risks associated with cyberspace.

During Mr Mahlobo’s appearance, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Hendrik Schmidt criticised the closed-door deliberations of the joint standing committee on intelligence and said "under no circumstances can it be … for a standing committee of a democratically elected Parliament to self-impose restrictions that exclude stakeholders from the appointment process of the inspector-general of intelligence".

Mr Schmidt said the DA would only participate in the appointment of the next inspector-general of intelligence if interviews were held in public.

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