Politics / 13 March 2014, 11:10am / Marianne Merten
Cape Town -
Proposed changes to the apartheid-era National Key Points Act, which the government says applies to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla rural homestead, will stand over to the next administration, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says.
The amendments process was initially scheduled for public consultations “in early 2014”, and a draft law for this month, after the police finalised its review of about 200 national key points in August and the government began developing a national policy.
The outlining of this process emerged in October, with Mthethwa saying it would address “misconceptions and guide the review of the act”. Two months later, during a parliamentary debate on the relevance of the act, Mthethwa said that as part of the review and legislative processes he would submit a list of national key points to the parliamentary joint standing committee on intelligence. That committee, however, sits behind closed doors.
On Wednesday, Mthethwa confirmed that “the process is on” and said the next administration would look at this piece of legislation as a first order of business.
Much of the recent focus on the act arose amid the public outcry over the R208 million taxpayer-funded security upgrades undertaken at Nkandla. The presidential rural home was declared a national key point in April 2010 - along with the homes of former presidents and those of sitting and former deputy presidents.
These are the only publicly confirmed national key points - and this declaration was repeatedly invoked for over a year to shut the door on the possibility of releasing details of the Nkandla upgrades.
A turnaround came in December after the Mail & Guardian leaked a draft public protector report, which, according to the newspaper, found Zuma had to shoulder at least some of the responsibility for the upgrades.
At a subsequent government briefing, the Public Works task team report was released almost a year after it had been completed.
That report said no state funds had been used for the presidential private residence and Zuma had not known of the costs, nor had he asked for security upgrades. Instead the report blamed for the cost escalations contractors and senior public works officials who had overseen the upgrade project, but who by then had resigned or been sacked.
The public protector is to release her report on Nkandla on Wednesday next week.
Critics have repeatedly highlighted that there is no list of national key points. In its 2012/13 annual performance plan, the SAPS said it would review all 182 national key points and half of the 248 so-called strategic installations declared in electricity, petrochemicals, munitions, air transport, state administration, communications, heavy industries and water.
A round of parliamentary replies last last year showed Waterkloof Air Force Base was not a national key point, nor were justice buildings.
The act is often invoked in relation to courts, while ministers have said they cannot provide a list of national key points under their control because “disclosure is prohibited”.
The act allows the police minister to declare a site a national key point if it is “so important that its loss, damage, disruption or immobilisation may prejudice the country”, or if the minister considers it “expedient” or “necessary” in the public interest or for South Africa’s safety.