More revision needed on Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill

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The National Key Points Act (NKP) has been under immense scrutiny ever since the Guptas landed a plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base and President Jacobs Zuma’s homestead saga.

The NKP which was a secret list of over 200 sites was brought into law during the last decade of apartheid. Government has used this Bill to curb protests and the stop people form taking pictures of places such at Zuma’s homestead, among others.

The South African History Archive (Saha) and Right2Know (R2K) took the police ministry to court and won the case against the police – forcing former Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa to release the list of the NKP sites.

In 2013, Mthethwa initiated the process to revise the NKP and replace it with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill. A draft of Bill was later published in 2016 by Civilian Secretariat for Police Service for public comment.

The Bill recently underwent the process of public hearings in Cape Town with a over 10 civil society organisations deliberating the Bill as it stands.

Right2Kow, one of the organisations who have been part of the process of revising the NKP has however raised concerns with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill citing that it ‘has a similar purpose and function to the National Key Points Act.’

In a statement R2K said, “The Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill seeks to replace the apartheid-era National Key Points Act. But while the National Key Points Act has promoted secrecy and undermined accountability and the right to protest, we believe the new Bill will do more of the same. We also believe that the Bill replicates the weaknesses of the Protection of State Information Bill and fails to protect people who expose secret information in the public interest.”

Spokesperson of R2K Murry Hunter said, “We are calling the Bill a wolf in wolf’s clothing. There are good intentions behind the bill; however is it not fixing the problems from the National Key Points Bill instead in some cases it is adding new problems.”

The Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill is putting a new coat on the same role, and if it is published in the form that is it in right now, it will ‘pose a serious threat to freedom of expression,’ added Hunter.

In a statement released by the Parliament on Wednesday, Chairperson of the Committee holds public hearings on Critical Infrastructure Protection Amendment Bill Francois Beukman says, “This is a very important legislation, replacing an apartheid era one.”

Beukman also acknowledged R2K’s rejection of the bill saying, “We are still at the beginning of the process. Nothing we can say now, but if there is a necessity to make changes, those changes would be made at a right time.”