South Africans, if a Ministerial edict is to be believed, are not supposed to know where and what National Key Points are. Yet it is fairly common knowledge among those in the country’s security sector – both private and public – what they are.
On the other hand statements post Guptagate have indicated there is a difference between them and strategic military areas in contradiction of ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe’s initial reaction to the unauthorised landing of a privately chartered aircraft at AFB Waterkloof at the end of April. He pointedly referred to the Centurion base as a National Key Point.
This was later said to be incorrect by the task team of directors general appointed to investigate the incident. AFB Waterkloof, they said, was a strategic military area, not the same as a National Key Point.
Airports, such as OR Tambo, King Shaka and Cape Town international, military and police as well as others involved in security know are designated National Key Points. Similarly, the country’s electricity infrastructure as well as its fuel pipelines and refineries, major dams and certain facilities also make it onto the list, said to contain close to 300 sites deemed key to national security by government.
A shining example in the facility category is State-owned defence industry conglomerate, Denel. On entering its Irene campus a bronze plaque tells visitors in no uncertain terms they are now entering a National Key Point. This could well be said to be in contravention of the National Key Points Act.
Attempts by opposition parties to have the issue of National Key Points, incidentally still in force thanks to legislation placed on the Statute Book by the previous government, debated have been stymied and delayed since February. This was at least two months before the now infamous Guptagate incident which has largely disappeared under the radar following the task team’s investigation and report.
As it currently stands, according to DA Chief Whip “Watty” Watson, the debate is scheduled for August after Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa has completed his review of the National Key Points Act.
So, the nation and those tasked with ensuring its security or as Engineering News senior contributing editor Keith Campbell put it “national insecurity”, will have to wait even longer to find out whether they are allowed to know what is and isn’t “key” in terms of national security considerations.