In January the Police Minister indicated he would be challenging a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court to disclose all the designated National Key Points (NKPs) in the country. This is at odds with last week’s proud trumpeting by Eskom that one of its new power stations – Medupi – is now officially an NKP.
That his challenge didn’t go ahead or was turned down no-one appears to know but Eskom’s revelation can be taken as a clear indication that government is no longer concerned about keeping the citizenry in the dark when it comes to NKPs.
“The Medupi power station is of strategic and national importance due to its generating capacity of 4 764 MW once completed. It will be the largest dry-cooled power station in the world consisting of six super critical boilers and six turbine generator units with air-cooled condensers.
“The station is also critical to Eskom’s responsibility towards South Africa’s economic growth, job creation and the socio-economic development of Lephalale in Limpopo,” a statement posted on the state-owned electricity generator’s website said.
Eskom held what it termed “an inauguration ceremony” to declare the power station a National Key Point on site last Thursday.
The National Key Points Act of 1980 was put on the Statute Book by the former government to protect facilities such as power stations, harbours, airports, oil refining and storage facilities as well as water infrastructure from acts of sabotage. Back then South Africa had in place an effective and well-manned commando system as a type of home guard entrusted with safekeeping of all installations and facilities named, but not publicly known, as NKPs.
Post 1994, the commando system was declared redundant to national security needs and safeguarding of NKPs became an SA Police Service tasking. In reality many of the NKPs employ private security companies, with oversight visits from the police the closest direct involvement of the South African crime fighting corps.
Government facilities, including Parliament in Cape Town and various Presidential and Ministerial accommodation (as well as Nkandla) are also NKPs as are the head office of the national broadcaster and its satellite offices around the country.
All told there are just over 200 NKPs currently on the list which can be added to or removed at the discretion of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.
As the official Parliamentary opposition the Democratic Alliance (DA) submitted a private member’s bill in an effort to have the apartheid era NKP Act removed from the Statute Book this year. The Protection of Critical Infrastructure Bill didn’t meet muster in the National Assembly and South Africans are stuck with the NKP Act, but at least they are now legally allowed to know what government has deemed worthy of protection as National Key Points.
Military installations do not enjoy NKP status. Instead they are rated as strategic and presumably are protected by the military. There is one known exception – SA National Defence Force headquarters in Pretoria where a private sector company is responsible for security at a cost in excess of R11 million a year.