DA plan to replace Key Points Act delayed

2015-11-11 12:30
Protesters outside Parliament. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Protesters outside Parliament. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Parliament - The DA could wait another week to find out if its proposed bill to replace the controversial National Key Points Act (NKPA) gets past its first hurdle.

The vote on the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Bill, which was introduced by DA MP Zakhele Mbele, was supposed to have been held during the Justice Portfolio Committee's meeting on Wednesday morning.

But it will probably be moved to next week because of other matters needing attention following an unusually busy few weeks at parliament.

The vote, in which the bill was likely to have failed at its first obstacle because a cabinet team is also working on one, would have happened as the parliamentary precinct hosts another protest - this time by many of its own employees who are on strike.

On October 21, the normally quiet precinct boomed with the sound of stun grenades and #FeesMustFall protesters trying to get in to the House of Assembly.

The committee heard last week that the house, the National Council of Provinces and Tuynhuys are key points, but neither were breached during the protest because the students did not enter the building. This was during an urgent briefing to the committee on the events of that protest.

Protests in the precinct

Members of the National Education Health Workers Union sang loudly on the precinct and outside the huge National Assembly doors on Tuesday and vowed to enter the house if their demands over performance bonuses and security vetting were not met.

Last Friday, MPs on the committee listened to Mbele's presentation on a proposal to repeal the NKPA of 1980, and related legislation.

Several administrations, during and after apartheid have been accused of invoking the act to ban photographs being taken at a government building or of police, or even the residence of a state official under the guise of national security.

"It gives the Minister of Police wide and far reaching powers without scrutiny," said Mbele.

The DA's proposal will outline the rights and duties of the owners of critical infrastructure, create a register containing areas declared as critical infrastructure. A board will determine and declare the critical infrastructure listed in the register.

Water and health services will also be regarded as critical infrastructure.

‘Bury information’

Mbele said that the desirability of such legislation had been indicated by former police minister Nathi Mthethwa who initiated a review process of the NKPA, but the outcome had not been made public.

"That delay needs to be addressed," said Mbele.

"The matter of security upgrades at the president's home in Nkandla show how the Key Points Act may be used to bury information and frustrate oversight," he said, referring to the controversy over the amount of state money spent on upgrades to President Jacob Zuma's private home in Nkandla, Kwa-Zulu-Natal.

Mbele said it was reasonable for any state to classify key installations for security purposes, but there had to be a balance between that and when authorities abuse their powers for ulterior motives.

The proposed board would review the infrastructure every financial year and remove "critical infrastructure" status when it was no longer required. The ministry of police would also have to table quarterly and unclassified reports outlining the existing infrastructure.

Bill must be desirable

To get the nod from the committee to go into the next phase, the proposed bill has to be found to be "desirable" but after his presentation Mbele was bombarded with questions by ANC committee members and the EFF representative on why they should allow a "bill on top of a bill".

This is because a team from cabinet already has one on the table that has been certified by the State Law Adviser for passing the test for constitutionality.

They also felt that it was not wise for the public to have so much detail about matters as critical as defence installations or equipment, for example.

But Mbele said the cabinet's version was taking too long. He had hoped to invoke a rule proposed by the late MP Mario Ambrosini that if a bill does not see the light of day after three months, it automatically falls off the table, and another can be introduced, to deal with bills gathering dust on desks.

The vote could happen next week instead.

Read more on:    da  |  cape town  |  parliament 2015

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