Johannesburg - The media misconstrued the cabinet directive over the publication of photographs of President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla home, a government spokeswoman said on Friday.
“Government has no problem with the media publishing pictures of National Key Points, including President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence, as it is part of their daily line of duty,” said Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) acting CEO Phumla Williams.
“However, zooming into safety and security features of National Key Points is a challenge as it compromises national security.”
Several newspapers printed photographs of the Nkandla residence on Friday after a warning by State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele that it was illegal to do so.
Cwele was addressing a post-cabinet briefing on Thursday that was dominated by the tussle between government and Public Protector Thuli Madonsela over her impending report on the use of public funds to upgrade security at Nkandla.
Williams said in a statement it appeared that the media had misconstrued the directive and that reporting on the matter was out of context, providing a disingenuous view to the public.
“The publication of security features of President Jacob Zuma’s home directly opens access to and can obviously pose a threat and risk to the personal safety of the Head of State.”
Rather, the GCIS urged the media to take a responsible stance by not publishing “any security features of National Key Points” that could compromise national safety.
In Parliament on Thursday, Cwele said publishing photographs on Zuma's Nkandla home was an unacceptable security breach under the National Key Points Act that would not be tolerated in any democracy.
“In terms of the National Key Points Act, no one including those in the media, is allowed to take images and publicise images even pointing where the possible security breaches are,” he said.
He said he was issuing a request, but the government would consider those who ignored it to be breaking the law.
“At this stage we are just appealing. We are appealing to the South African public.
“...It is important also to just send a caution that we have got laws - yes, some of them we will have to amend - but the continuing of flaunting of these pictures (of) a place which has been declared by the minister of police as a national key point is also not correct. It is a breach of law.”
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Zuma was the victim of a propaganda campaign suggesting he used taxpayers' money for his private home.
“We have seen these things being peddled, said time and time again, that the state built the houses for the president with R206 million, which is a lie.
“Those who do so follow the example of (Joseph) Goebbels, the propagandist of Hitler. No matter how often you repeat this lie, it is a lie. We have disaggregated this R200 million, where it went, and most of it went to the security features.”
On Friday, many newspaper front pages were dominated by pictures of the president’s KwaZulu-Natal home.
The Star, Cape Argus and Cape Times carried front page photograph of the upgrades.
The Times, in an editorial, said it would continue to publish the pictures.
“Efforts to stop us from doing so will be a betrayal of our duty as watchdogs of democracy,” it said.
The SA National Editors Forum (Sanef) on Thursday that the media would continue to publish photographs of Nkandla because it believed this was in the public interest.
It was not the intention of the media to undermine Zuma's security by publishing the pictures.
The editors said the photographs published had been taken from a distance or from the air to show the extent of the upgrades to the property. - Sapa