The tuck shop of fear
We asked Fred Khumalo to Explain exactly how the ANC government interprets and enforces the apartheid government's National Key Points Act. That was our first big mistake
IN August 1985 I got arrested and spent a week in prison. That in itself is nothing to write home about – I was just one of thousands of children detained, to their bemusement, for “compromising national security”.
But what is important to me, and what is relevant to what I am writing about, is that on my release I posed for a photograph outside the Hammarsdale police station. The person in the picture next to me was a policeman, a gentleman I had grown up with.
To my shock and horror, I was to discover that, by having a picture of myself taken outside the police station, I had broken yet another law
– in addition to the vague state-of-emergency regulation that had led to my detention in the first place.
I had been arrested at the insistence of local Inkatha leader Zakhele Nkehli, who had told the station commander, an enthusiastic Afrikaner who greeted me with a nice klap to the face when I arrived at the police station, that I was part of a group of kids who were stockpiling petrol bombs with the view to overthrowing the state, blah blah.
It so happened that when I got released with the other kids there was one older guy waiting for us outside – with a camera. So, I posed for a picture, with a policeman who had been my schoolmate.
I was truly shocked and horrified when I learnt, in my press law class at journalism school, that, by posing in front of a police station, I had contravened the National Key Points Act.
Turns out that, had I been paying attention in class, I would have noticed that the chapter on national key points had been dealt with in our first semester already. And we were already in the second.
It took a while before I could understand what a national key point was. You see, I am one of those guys who find it difficult to read between the lines. With me, you have to spell it out unambiguously. I guess that’s why, in my youth, I was never lucky with the ladies. In our youth, ladies would never say “yes ”, or “no”. They would speak in codes and you had to read between the lines. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those boys who had the knack of reading between the lines. I wanted a “yes ”, or “no”, loud and clear.
So, when I re-read the National
Key Points Act in Kelsey C Stuart’s book A Newspaperman’s Guide to
the Law back then, I still couldn’t fully understand the finer points about the act.
An apartheid gem
Here is an excerpt from the National Key Points Act of 1980:
“( 1) If it appears to the Minister at any time that any place or area is so important that its loss, damage, disruption or immobilization may prejudice the Republic, or whenever he considers it necessary or expedient for the safety of the Republic or in the public interest, he
may declare that place or area a National Key Point.
“( 2) The owner of any place or area so declared a National Key Point shall forthwith be notified by written notice of such declaration.
“2A Declaration of National Key Points as a National Key Points Complex
“( 1) When in the opinion of the Minister it will contribute to the safeguarding of two or more National Key Points if certain steps in respect of their security are taken jointly by their owners, he may declare those Key Points a National Key Points Complex irrespective of whether one of the Key Points adjoins any other and irrespective of whether the steps contemplated will be taken at or on any of the Key Points.
“( 2) The owner of a Key Point included in a Key Points Complex shall forthwith be notified thereof by written notice, as well as of the name and address of each of the other owners of Key Points included in the Key Points Complex.”
Because I did not have the patience to navigate my way through such obfuscative language, I failed the press law course. I was truly embarrassed because I had never failed in my life.
I had forgotten about that embarrassing phase of my life until the National Key Points Act was pulled out of the apartheid law chambers, dusted off and put to use once again by the ANC government. The act, which was amended in 2007, has regained its currency thanks to President Jacob Zuma’s splendid compound at Nkandla.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told the nation this week that the media would be punished if they published pictures showing security features around the Nkandla compound because they might compromise national security. What exactly does that mean? You see, the thing about the Nkandla complex is that it is a rather, shall we say, complex complex. You see, at this complex you have a remarkable cattle culvert. And then you have a rather expensive spaza shop on the premises.
Now, if I were to go to MaKhumalo’s spaza shop to buy stuff – we Khumalos like to support each other – would it be illegal for me to proudly pose for a picture outside MaKhumalo’s spaza shop because the picture would show the fence around the spaza? What threat would that picture pose to national security? What is the strategic value of Nkandla to the country?
The funny thing is that any member of the public can sommer walk into MaKhumalo’s spaza shop, and from there possibly wander into the main compound.
That makes a mockery of all these concerns about publishing pictures that might compromise security at the president’s national key point.
Or am I missing the point once again?
'5(/+ 7335(6 ! - 0 # ! 1 - * "