National Key Points – where to now?


In one way or other, key points have become a key issue of the national debate, with the Presidential homestead and its facilities in KwaZulu-Natal currently occupying centre stage.

While Cabinet Ministers and government spokesmen have consistently declined to name key points, apart from Nkandla, one other has been made public. This is the SA Navy’s communications complex at Silvermine in the Western Cape.

It was, apparently in defiance of government’s undertaking not to identify key points, made public knowledge by opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier. This after theft of copper cable had apparently seen to it at least parts of the naval communication machine were rendered useless.

Responding, the Navy indicated it had approached the Department of Public Works regarding repair of broken fencing and moved equipment from areas where it is accessible to thieves. The maritime arm of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) also indicated its communication facility in Durban was capable of handling all the necessary communications with warships at sea.

Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also made public mention of the multi-million Rand Presidential homestead. This was when she spoke in support of the State of the Nation address in Parliament in February. She did not go into any detail as to protection and other security services but elaborated on the medical facilities.

She told parliament the SANDF had reviewed work done at Nkandla in relation to the force’s support to President Zuma. This included a clinic facility as part of the operational requirements of the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) Presidential Medical Unit; a helipad facility for the SA Air Force (SAAF) and accommodation units for “various SANDF members required to perform duties in support of the President”.

Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament a decision had been taken to increase the size of the medical facility inside the perimeter to a bigger clinic outside.
“This was wrong and miscalculated. Having assessed both the location and size of the clinic facility it is our view that, save for minor adjustments, the clinic has adequate capacity to serve both the requirements of the President whenever necessary as well as provide a service for the community of Nkandla.”

The wider security sector in South Africa acknowledges that places such as the Union Buildings, the adjacent Bryntirion Ministerial housing complex, the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town and Presidential residences across the country are all national key points.

Others would include high value military installations such as AFB Makhado in Limpopo, home to the SAAF’s lone remaining fighter squadron, AFB Bloemspruit where 16 Squadron’s Rooivalk combat support helicopters are based, as well as other SAAF bases and installations. The Navy’s home port of Simon’s town as well as the west coast port of Saldanha and, presumably when it is recommissioned in the near future, Naval Station Durban, also qualify for inclusion on the key points list. The same would apply to SA Army bases, with the entire Thaba Tshwane area, widely seen as South Africa’s military capital, also being of major strategic value.

Major airports, such as OR Tambo, Cape Town and King Shaka, along with commercial ports and harbours are also certain to be on the list.

Then there is the national network of power stations, owned and operated by Eskom, along with the Nuclear Energy Corporation, at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria. A permanent no-fly zone is active over the entire campus from zero to unlimited altitude.

As the national power supplier Eskom takes responsibility for the security of its assets.
“The physical security measures Eskom employs consist off a combination of technology and people integrated through standard operating procedures.
“Eskom not only implements minimum security requirements as prescribed by the regulatory bodies but performs a threat and risk assessment and formulates security plans that focus on mitigating the identified risks,” the State-owned electricity generator said in response to a defenceWeb enquiry.
“In terms of the National Key Point legislation, SAPS is tasked as the protecting authority and as such supports Eskom although not in performing security functions. The SANDF is not involved,” Eskom said.

Overall physical security at national key points is regulated by the Government Security Regulator which is a function of the SA Police Service from a legislative perspective.

But as defence analyst Helmoed Romer Heitman points out the transfer of responsibility for guarding key points to the SANDF is “not yet a done deal”.

This follows the disbanding of the Commandos which saw the majority of the so-called home guard’s taskings going to police. Border protection has been handed back to the SANDF and tasks such as airport and Pelindaba perimeter security are now handled by private security companies.

Heitman succinctly states: “There is currently no clarity regarding the level of protection required and how the overall system will change”.

The 2013/2014 SA Police Service budget indicated that there would be 197 national key points by 2015/16 – an increase of 15 from 2012/13.

While the threats that brought the National Key Points Act (Act 102 of 1980) into being are no longer existent, government is still using apartheid era legislation when it comes to keeping South Africans in the dark about what is and what isn’t a key point.