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Mon Aug 31 00:34:38 SAST 2015

Key Points fig leaf too small to hide Nkandla splurge

The Times Editorial | 30 October, 2012 01:01

The Times Editorial: The furore around security upgrades at residences used by heads of state will never be resolved as long as the government hides behind the National Key Points Act.

The apartheid-era legislation stipulates that no information or photograph of a National Key Point can be published without official permission.

However, the key points have never been publicly listed. So we are all flying blind over what constitutes a key point.

Back in 2007, then president Thabo Mbeki came under attack when it emerged that the government was to build a R90-million security wall around his official residence.

Now, President Jacob Zuma is caught in the same web. His administration is unable to explain the upgrade at his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal, which is said to be costing taxpayers more than R200-million.

While we need a law that governs what is public or private where state residences are concerned, it is disconcerting that there is an information clampdown even on matters that do not place the security of the president at risk.

There is a bad tendency developing within the government - officials are quick to hide behind laws to avoid explaining the process of doing their work.

In 2007 when Mbeki was under attack , the Public Works Department was found wanting. It is, sadly, repeating the mistakes with the Nkandla project.

As long as South Africans are treated as enemies of the state, government officials should not cry foul when citizens add more bunkers and golden ceramic tiles to their stories of the Nkandla makeover.

Resorting to an apartheid-era law to restrict information is counter-productive.

A clampdown on information allows disinformation and lies to fester.

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