The successor to the National Key Points Act – the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, still in draft form – has been roundly criticised for its intention of keeping “critical infrastructure” secret.
Speaking at a media briefing in KwaZulu-Natal this week, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow police minister Zakhele Mbhele pointed out “this means, as is the case today, it would not be possible to know what is classified as critical infrastructure”.
“The list should be made public and available for public scrutiny,” he said.
The draft Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill was published for public comment and input in April and followed a private member’s bill submitted by Mbhele last November under the title “Protection of Critical Infrastructure Bill”. It did not progress through the National Assembly.
Mbhele told this week’s briefing the bill does not specify strict criteria for classification as “a critical infrastructure”.
“The requirements are vague, allowing for abuse and political meddling,” he said, adding the bill aims to create a situation where there will be no effective oversight and accountability.
“Without Parliament having oversight over the appointment of persons to the new Critical Infrastructure Council (CIC) – tasked with evaluating, monitoring and reviewing the implementation of policy and legislation related to the protection of the critical infrastructure – the Council could be easily captured by the ANC to continue its capture of state institutions.
“Further, and equally worrying, is that neither the CIC nor the Minister is required to report to Parliament on this Bill. Recent abuses of the National key Points Act indicate it is essential there is oversight over the protection of critical infrastructure, and Parliament must be the body to do so,” he said.
The National Key Points Act, legislation introduced and passed by the former government, came under fire following media revelations which started some years ago about extensive additions being made to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal. This was more or less the same time as a jet aircraft, chartered by the politically connected Gupta family, landed at AFB Waterkloof, a supposedly secure military installation which, along with other SANDF facilities, is not classified as a National Key Point but enjoys the secure facility protection.
These events generated debate in both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces with opposition parties demanding government make public its list of national key points. It eventually did so in December 2014. This officially saw South Africans know that, among others, Parliament, provincial legislatures, Presidential and Ministerial residences as well as oil pipelines, dams, power stations, the Union Buildings, airports, the nuclear facility at Pelindaba west of Pretoria and certain roads were classified as National Key Points.
Mbhele is also concerned about a clause preventing photographs being taken of critical infrastructure, as well as wording in the draft that “leaves too much room for interpretation and could lead to governmental clampdown on dissent or to political prosecution”.
As it stands he maintains the bill could see a journalist imprisoned for taking photographs of Nkandla. This is also the case with the National Key Points Act.