On 5 September, the Right2Know Campaign and the South African History Archive (SAHA) served court papers on the Minister of Police and Minister of Defence and War Veterans, to access a public list of National Key Points.
This follows nearly a year of campaigning to make the list of National Key Points public. In October 2012, SAHA, on behalf of the Right2Know Campaign, made a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) for SAPS to release a list of National Key Points. The request was refused, and an internal appeal against the decision was turned down. We are therefore left with no other choice but to go to court in order to obtain the list.
The National Key Points Act, a relic of the Apartheid era, promotes arbitrary and anti-democratic secrecy. It empowers the Minister of Police to declare any place to be a ‘National Key Point’ – giving it special security and excessive secrecy for “national security” reasons. Both government buildings and privately owned buildings can be declared National Key Points. The Act imposes jail penalties and fines (determined by the Minister alone) on anyone who discloses any information pertaining to the National Key Point. It empowers the police to block protests and gatherings outside National Key Points on vague “national security” grounds.
And yet the Act continues to exist. The National Key Points Act has been deployed numerous times to block civic organisations and unions from protesting in public spaces. As noted in R2K’s 2013 State of the Secret Nation report, the number of declared National Key Points has increased dramatically, from 118 to 197 in the past 5 years.
We are demanding the list of these declared National Key Points. The climate of secrecy surrounding the National Key Points is far greater than any ‘national security’ concerns can justify. Through this list we hope to provide public oversight to an otherwise unchecked and secretive process of declaring National Key Points, and to begin to challenge the slow creep of unjustified secrecy in our public life.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr attorneys are acting for the Right2Know Campaign and SAHA, through their Pro Bono and Human Rights Department. R2K’s court papers can be downloaded here.
Catherine Kennedy (Director, South African History Archive): 072-682-6240
Murray Hunter (National spokesperson, R2K): 072-672-5468.
4 October 2012: Acting through SAHA, R2K submits a PAIA application to the South African Police Service, requesting a list of National Key Points. Read more.
16 November 2012: SAPS refuses the request, citing security concerns.
18 December 2012: R2K and SAHA lodge an internal appeal, which requires the Minister of Police to re-consider the request within 30 days.
17 January 2013: SAPS requests an informal extension to consider the internal appeal. R2K and SAHA agree to an extension until 28 February. Read more.
28 February 2013: The Minister of Police misses the extended deadline to respond. Read more.
7 March 2013: Acting Minister of Police, Siyabonga Cwele, upholds the decision to refuse R2K’s request, citing security concerns and the privacy of “third parties” protected by the National Key Points Act. Read more.
5 September 2013: R2K and SAHA file court papers to compel SAPS to release the information requested.