The DA has reintroduced its Protection of Critical Infrastructure Private Member’s Bill (“Critical Infrastructure Bill”) to Parliament which seeks to repeal the outdated Apartheid-era legislation that is the National Key Points Act (NKPA) of 1980.
Virtually every line of the NKPA – as it currently exists – was designed to ensure that the Apartheid state could continue to rule with an iron-fist, without transparency and accountability. That this Act exists in this form today is an indictment on our hard-won democracy.
Indeed, when the Act was passed in 1980, it was done in response to what the government of the day viewed as sabotage or terrorism. It was used to wage war against our own people. This Act was designed to reinforce the safety of the Apartheid system and to give the Apartheid Minister of Defence very broad authority to ‘declare’ any place in South Africa a National Key Point. The responsibility of this Act later transferred to the Minister of Police where it remains today.
A by-product of the wide ministerial discretion of the NKP Act has, for almost 35 years, allowed for our most critical state infrastructure and strategic installations and buildings to become a hot-bed for corruption and secrecy. This has been allowed through a number of problematic provisions in the legislation:
- The list of National Key Points is not publicly available, which means the Act is not a law of general application. Furthermore, the absence of a published list prevents scrutiny of whether these key points have been justifiably declared;
- The special account designed to assist in funding the operation of National Key Points is non-existent. This results in the improper appropriation of state funds, wherein government departments allocate funds to upgrading and securing National Key Points when these should be obtained from the special account;
- The Minister is not ordered in the Act to declare the properties – so how on earth is one to know if one is breaking the law or not; and
- Section 10 of the Act indeed creates a criminal offence by prohibiting anyone from providing “any information relating to the security measures, applicable at or in respect of any National Key Point or in respect of any incident that occurred there”. Which may mean that journalists could be jailed, who may indeed be unwittingly taking photos of a National Key Point, which appears on an authentic list they may never see. This was the case with a journalist, Le Roux Schoeman, who was detained late last year and later released by security at Majuba Power Station for taking photos of a “National Key Point”.
This, we submit, makes it easier for the political elite to conduct corrupt and criminal activity under the veil of secrecy. This is precisely what happened in the Nkandlagate scandal, where the Act was used to justify the burying of information relating to the exorbitant expenditure of public funds used to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s private home at Nkandla.
This simply cannot be allowed to happen again and legislative measures need to be taken to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The DA’s Private Members Bill seeks to make these necessary changes, by replacing the NKP Act with a constitutionally aligned alternative. Our Bill provides for the following:
- Chapter 6 of the DA’s Critical Infrastructure Bill allows for much needed parliamentary oversight to counteract the Minister’s authority;
- Clause 13 of the Bill looks to establish a board to oversee, determine and declare the functions surrounding the protection and classification of critical infrastructure installations, as opposed to the Police Minister having sole discretion to declare which areas or structures need government protection;
- The Bill creates strict criteria for the classification of critical infrastructure installations under specific sectors, based on national security and vulnerability;
- Allocate the responsibility of managing the costs associated with declaring a place or area a critical infrastructure installation to the government, and not to the owner;
- Ensure there is a publicly available list of all critical infrastructure installations and that the list is regularly reviewed and tabled in Parliament; and
- It will ensure that the Portfolio Committee on Police oversees the implementation of the Act, including conducting regular, open committee sittings thereon.
We know the President has 246 million good reasons to keep the NKP Act. This is precisely why we have to scrap it now, so we do not allow for another Nkandla to take place. Public money should be spent on our people, not in ensuring that President Jacob Zuma’s cattle receive five-star treatment at state expense.
We have introduced this Bill to Parliament, and it has already been gazetted for public comment. The Minister of Police, and the ANC, now have the opportunity to do what is right and send the NKP Act to the scrap-heap of history. We urge them to join us in the fight against corruption, and to support our Bill. If they do not, they will demonstrate that they care only for protecting President Jacob Zuma and his lavish spending of public money.
By Zakhele Mbhele, DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Police