National Key Points no longer a State secret


If he adheres to the instruction given by a Gauteng South High Court judge, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko will no later than Monday, January 5, make public the list of National Key Points.

This is part of a judgement handed down earlier this week following legal proceedings initiated by the Right2Know (R2K) campaign and the South African History Archive (SAHA).

In addition to ordering the Police Minister to make public the 248 National Keys Points and Strategic Installations the latest Police annual report says there are in the country, Judge Roland Sutherland also ordered the State to pay the legal costs of both applicants and the Mail & Guardian, which appeared as amici curiae in the court proceedings.

The judge ruled it was unlawful and unconstitutional not to reveal National Key Points.

R2K said the judgement highlighted “the damning failure by the State to provide clear reasons for refusing access to records in terms of South Africa’s key accountability law, the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) noting the SA Police Service’s justification for withholding these records amounted to ‘platitudes and a recitation of the provisions of the statutes'”.

The National Key Points Act was put on the Statute Book by the former National Party government and its intention was to ensure sites such as power stations, dams, oil refineries, harbours and ports as well as the Houses of Parliament, official Presidential residences and other buildings, facilities and installations that could be considered at risk from attack by enemies of the country would be kept secret.

The now disbanded Commandos were primarily responsible for ensuring the safety of National Key Points. This saw these units created and based in areas such as Kempton Park (to guard what was Jan Smuts International Airport, now Oliver Tambo International) and Broederstroom (adjacent to the Pelindaba nuclear site, now home of the Nuclear Energy Corporation).

Post democracy the legislation has not been changed but used, in at least once instance by the ANC government, to “hide” Nkandla, the Presidential homestead in KwaZulu-Natal where millions have allegedly been spent without correct authorisation.

Reacting to the judgement, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow minister of police, Dianne Kohler Barnard said: “The Act is a self-serving one that should be on an apartheid-era scrap heap but the President has 246 million good reasons to keep the National Key Points Act in place, despite the DA’s proposed legislation to have it scrapped”.

The latest SAPS annual report, as quoted by her, lists 248 National Key Points and Strategic Installations. These include 90 VIP residences, 42 installations/government buildings, 15 presidential residential premises and three offices.

The responsibility for ensuring National Key Points’ security is a police tasking but in many instances the organisations and/or companies involved provide their own security. This is done either via private security contractors, or security personnel or a mixture of the two, defenceWeb has established.

Another indication of the quandary surrounding National Key Points came from an answer to a Parliamentary question posed by FF+ MP, Anton Alberts.

He wanted to know from Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, what the possibility was of having Rand Water and other strategic water plants declared National Key Points to increase security.

Her response – that any such decision lies with the Minister of Defence and risks analyses are done at all plants annually to improve security – was “shocking and extremely worrying” he said.
“Her response makes it clear government is not serious about protection of a natural resource without which life is not possible. The balance between availability and provision of water has been finely calibrated and the slightest of problems can cause great hardship.
“If one of the larger water plants were to experience a problem, the country could find itself in crisis. Yet the state views the President’s controversial house as a more important national asset and priority to secure. This will have to change,” Alberts said.