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

Sunday World - - Opinion -

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?

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