Minister of Intelligence Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba had recalled five former State Security Agency (SSA) officials serving the country as diplomats abroad, saying the SSA is in need of their skills back home.
Among them is Thulani Dlomo, who is the country's ambassador to Japan - one of the best paid jobs in South Africa's diplomatic structures.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya told News24 that Letsatsi-Duba had asked that Dlomo, along with four other ambassadors, return to the country to strengthen capacity at SSA.
Mabaya said the five ambassadors were informed in writing. The names of the other four have not been confirmed yet.
"The Minister of Intelligence asked that Dirco return to State Security Agency all their senior officials who were deployed as diplomats to strengthen their capacity in the agency. The director general is managing their return and logistics," he said.
Mabaya reiterated their return was due to a request from Letsatsi-Duba and was being implemented.
Dlomo, the former head of special operations and deputy director of counter intelligence in the internal branch of the SSA, took up the ambassador post in August 2017.
Japan is one of South Africa's largest trading partners and the ambassadorship in this Asian country is one of the most sought after.
Dlomo walked into the South African embassy in Tokyo dressed in traditional Zulu regalia, City Press reported last year.
News24 reported earlier that Dlomo, who has a dubious past and close ties to former president Jacob Zuma, was nominated for the Japan post after he was allegedly suspended from the SSA the previous year, in 2016.
According to five independent sources within intelligence circles who spoke to News24 at the time, Dlomo was suspended over an alleged transgression apparently related to trips he had taken abroad.
In 2012, Dlomo was appointed as head of the SSA's Special Operations Unit (SOU). The appointment was shrouded in controversy after it came to light that he had been involved in alleged tender corruption in KwaZulu-Natal.
Before his appointment at the SSA, Dlomo had been the head of security at the KwaZulu-Natal department of social development.
It was alleged that Dlomo had received a kickbacks of R1m related to tenders worth R45m.
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Dlomo resigned from the department following an investigation ordered by then social development MEC Meshack Radebe, who had found that he had interfered in tender procedures at the department.
After his appointment at the SSA in 2012, City Press reported that Dlomo had upset several of his colleagues at the SSA after he allegedly stated that he "only reported to Zuma".
In 2016, City Press reported that Dlomo had apparently abused his position as SOU head by ordering covert operations that appeared to have personally benefited Zuma.
One such operation entailed ordering a former apartheid-era spy to travel to Europe in order to source documents that allegedly implicated Zuma in corruption related to the arms deal.
Some of these documents were later controversially barred from being entered as evidence during the Seriti commission of inquiry into the arms deal.