In June defenceWeb asked “National Key Points – when will South Africans know?” At least some of the issues around them are likely to become clearer on September 12 with a Parliamentary debate scheduled.
While what are and what aren’t National Key Points have been around since the days of National Party rule but they really hit the headlines earlier this year for the first time in democratic South Africa with Nkandla and “Guptagate”.
The classification of the Presidential homestead, Nkandla, as a National Key Point saw the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party move purposefully to putting them top of the national psyche. The party first requested a National Key Points debate on February 27 after the Department of Public Works used it “as a convenient excuse to prevent scrutiny of expenditure on Nkandla,” chief whip “Watty” Watson said.
May saw the unauthorised landing of a chartered airbus A330 at AFB Waterkloof in what has become universally known as “Guptagate” thanks to the involvement of this high profile family. This again propelled National Key Points to the forefront of the national debate with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe lashing out at people using National Key Points for personal reasons.
Adding fuel to the debate was the Centurion air force base’s classification later being changed to that of a strategic military area. This was contained in the report of a task team of director-generals who investigated the AFB Waterkloof incident.
Since then at least one Minister and an Opposition MP have publicly named National Key Points. Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said the Government Printer, situated on the western side of the Pretoria CBD, was one and shadow defence and military veterans minister David Maynier told the country the Silvermine military communications facility in Cape Town was also on the list of National Key Points.
Another example of ignoring the apparent edict that South Africans shouldn’t know their National Key Points came on one of the country’s three 24 hour TV news channels on Sunday. The looming strike by transport and allied workers at SAA, the Airports Company of SA (ACSA) said would not affect operations because airports were classed as National Key Points.
State-owned defence industry conglomerate Denel also doesn’t hide its standing. On entering its Irene, Centurion, campus an engraved plaque informs visitors they are now entering a National Key Point. If what Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said holds true this means Denel is guilty of breaking the law.
Government, via various Ministers and spokesmen, has repeatedly said South Africans are not allowed to know where and what the current 182 national key points are. According to the 2013/14 SAPS annual report this number is planned to increase by 15 in the next financial year.
Confirming the September debate Watson said: “The last excuse from former ANC chief whip, Mathole Motshekga, was that we needed to wait for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to table his report on National Key Points in Parliament. In reply to a Parliamentary question he indicated the report will be finalised by August 30. There is therefore absolutely no more reason for this debate not to take place.”
Watson said it was “essential” that Parliament debate whether an apartheid era piece of legislation should be used to cover up dubious government expenditure. The debate will also shed light on whether the National Key Points Act is relevant in a constitutional democratic state governed by the rule of law.
He said new ANC chief whip Stone Sizani had given a guarantee that the National Assembly will debate the “legitimacy of this legislation (National Key Points Act)”.