Rul­ing on na­tional key point dis­clo­sure re­served

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - OMPHITLHETSE MOOKI omphitlhetse.mooki@inl.co.za

THE TWO-YEAR bat­tle to un­veil the se­crecy shroud­ing na­tional key points landed in the high court in Joburg yes­ter­day, with ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion is­sues pit­ted against state se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Hav­ing failed in an Oc­to­ber 2012 bid to get the min­is­ter of po­lice to re­lease a list of sites de­clared na­tional key points, the Right2Know Cam­paign (R2K) and the South African His­tory Ar­chive (SAHA) hauled the min­is­ter of po­lice and the min­is­ter of de­fence and mil­i­tary vet­er­ans be­fore Judge Roland Suther­land.

Ar­gu­ing on be­half of the two or­gan­i­sa­tions, ad­vo­cate Steven Budlen­der SC said records of the na­tional key points and bank state­ments of the ac­count used for the safe­keep­ing of such prop­er­ties should be re­leased in terms of the Pro­mo­tion of Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act.

Ad­vo­cate Viwe Not­she SC, for the State, ar­gued that re­leas­ing such in­for­ma­tion would “prej­u­dice the de­fence and safety of the Repub­lic”. The bank ac­count, he said, did not ex­ist.

“The mere men­tion of the name of a place will at­tract un­nec­es­sary at­ten­tion to that place. An area is de­clared a na­tional key point if it ap­pears to the min­is­ter that it is so im­por­tant that its loss, dam­age, dis­rup­tion or im­mo­bil­i­sa­tion would prej­u­dice the Repub­lic or that it is nec­es­sary or ex­pe­di­ent for the safety of the Repub­lic or in the best in­ter­ests that the place is so de­clared,” Not­she said.

This ar­gu­ment, how­ever, did not hold, said Budlen­der, as the Na­tional Key Point Act also did not pro­hibit the dis­clo­sure of such ar­eas or prop­er­ties.

Budlen­der said “un­nec­es­sary at­ten­tion doesn’t demon­strate any dan­ger to the state” and that dis­clo­sure of key points would in no way en­dan­ger the coun­try as it was al­ready a known fact that OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional Air­port, the busiest and big­gest air­port on the con­ti­nent, was a key point.

“If it’s a key point or not, if the dark forces to which my learned friend (Not­she) al­ludes to were to en­dan­ger the safety of this coun­try, OR Tambo Air­port would be a great place to start.”

Other key points had been listed in Par­lia­ment, and that had not posed any se­cu­rity risks.

“It would be dif­fi­cult if what we were re­quest­ing is the ad­dress… the se­cu­rity mea­sures. It shouldn’t be as­sumed that se­crecy is an aid to se­cu­rity,” he said.

Along with ad­vo­cate Matse- leng Lekoane, rep­re­sent­ing the me­dia, Budlen­der re­ferred to an in­ci­dent last year in which a re­porter and pho­tog­ra­pher work­ing for The Star were in­ter­ro­gated after wit­ness­ing and tak­ing pho­tos of warders as­sault­ing a pris­oner.

Judg­ment was re­served.

PIC­TURE: NOKUTHULA MBATHA

‘TELL US’: Mem­bers of the Right2Know Cam­paign and the South African His­tory Ar­chives protest out­side the high court in Joburg yes­ter­day to tell the court why the pub­lic should have ac­cess to a list of na­tional key points. They be­lieve this ba­sic trans­parency is an im­por­tant step to­wards coun­ter­ing the un­con­trolled se­crecy and po­ten­tial abuse of South Africa’s na­tional se­cu­rity poli­cies.

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