/ 22 January 2015

National key points: The list you weren’t meant to see

Waterkloof airforce base is not listed
Waterkloof airforce base is not listed

For years “national key points” – and alleged such – have dogged public debate. Here, for the first time, is the full and official list.

They have been cited as a reason why the media should not publish photos of President Jacob Zuma’s residence at Nkandla, why protesters could not picket mines and why a Gupta plane should not have landed at the Waterkloof air force base.

But until today the list of national key points – points so important to national security that they deserve special treatment – was itself secret. You could break the law by simply describing one, but you were not allowed to know where they were.

However, this week the minister of police unexpectedly, and without explanation, withdrew an application to appeal a high court order that the list must be provided to the SA History Archive (Saha), joined by the Right2Know Campaign, in terms of a Promotion of Access to Information application. And late on Thursday the ministry delivered.

Saha said it was delighted that the police had come to its senses, and that it “had nowhere to go” with an appeal that stood no chance of success in a case it should not have fought in the first place.

“It was yet another blanket refusal in which [the SA Police Service] provided no evidence to support the refusal, they failed to consider whether the list could be redacted and released in part, and they had ignored the public interest override entirely,” said Saha director Catherine Kennedy. “Not to mention the fact that nowhere in the national key points Act itself is it stated that the list of NKPs must not be disclosed. It was simply the type of knee-jerk refusal that has no place in a democracy, that purports to be built on openness and democracy.”

Dated January 16 2015, the list runs to 204 sites, and contains a number of surprises. Although the national key points Act, under which such sites are protected, is a ludicrous piece of legislation dating from the most paranoid days of late apartheid, it has been enthusiastically applied by the democratic government. Every provincial legislature (all established post 1994) is included, as are new projects such as the Square Kilometre Array telescope. 

Yet some sites that should arguably appear do not. The main airports of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban appear, but those in Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and East London are, apparently, not considered key. Depots and pipelines responsible for petrol are extensively covered, as is electricity infrastructure and the SABC, but cellphone networks are not, and neither are police stations.

Waterkloof not listed 
As Justice Minister Jeff Radebe claimed in 2013, the Waterkloof Air Force Base is not listed (nor is any other military base), even though the ANC was convinced it was a key point, according to a statement the party issued in the wake of the Guptagate affair.

Other claims of such status are also disproved by the list. In 2013 prison officials told journalists to delete pictures taken at the Groenpunt Prison in Deneysville because, they said, it was a national key point. Prisons, however, do not appear on the list.

Nor do magistrate’s courts, putting lie to the claim of police who arrested protesting miners outside the Rustenburg magistrate’s court in 2012. 

In his high court judgment in early December, Judge Ronald Sutherland said the police had failed to prove the release of the list would prejudice state security. He also said it was of national interest that the list be made public.

Judge Sutherland gave the minister of police 30 days in which to deliver the list to the Saha and Right2Know. The Mail & Guardian had appeared as amici curiae (friend of the court) in the proceedings.

The applicants had argued that the “blanket secrecy over which sites have been declared national key points has helped officials and politicians use and abuse the national key point Act to undermine our constitutional rights”.

Viwe Notshe, representing the state, said disclosure would put the country’s defence and security at risk.

But Right2Know said it was concerned that police did not intend to table a public list of the national key points and strategic installations as part of a parliamentary amendment Bill, which meant “that Parliament should produce a law with no public list of the institutions and places which would be affected by the law”. 

‘Meaningless exercise’
This, R2K said, would be a “meaningless exercise that reduced Parliament’s role to nothing more than a rubber-stamping exercise likely to replicate some of the worst parts of the law”.

The body went on to say that access to this list would “more than likely demonstrate that the national key points Act was a legal throwback to apartheid-era secrecy and has no place in South Africa’s democracy”.

The state’s argument that these sites needed to be kept secret for security reasons, often broke its own rules and identified the location. Take the visit to the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa. In a government invitation, the media were told to bring their identity documents to the site, as it was a national key point.

And of course there is Nkandla, which has also been identified.

Sutherland said in this judgment that if the protection of information Act was seen as the successor statute for the promotion of access to information Act, then section 14 of that Act required all prohibited places to be gazetted and, accordingly, their identity to be published. A request for comment from the minister regarding her decision to withdraw her appeal on the matter was not forthcoming. 

On Thursday night R2K organiser Murray Hunter said the release of the list would be useful in further campaigns. “Now that the list is public, R2K will use it to help the public to identify and challenge abuses of the law in all nine provinces. We see national key points being used as an excuse to shield government and the private sector alike from accountability.”

But the next step, he said, was to use the list to battle the national key points Act itself, when it comes before Parliament for review. “We believe there is no place in our democracy for national key points and we’ll campaign to have the Act scrapped, not amended.”

Saha, meanwhile, will consider whether to contest the constitutionality of the national key points Act itself, Kennedy said, while challenging other refusals to hand over information. 

“In order to shake off those entrenched cultures of secrecy the country has inherited, both from the apartheid regime and the liberation struggle movements, we need to be pushing for openness on and ongoing basis, both in terms of dealing with the past, and in strengthening our young democracy,” she said

The national key points list, as of January 2015
The list, as provided by the ministry of police, contains some cryptic entries, including simply “Orca” in the Western Cape. “TPL” refers to Transnet pipelines, “SITA” means the State Information Technology Agency, “NECSA” is the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA, and “RDM” is Rheinmetall Denel Munition. 

President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, perhaps the most controversial key point of all, is listed as “Pres of SA Res – KZN”. Some installations are listed as spanning two provinces even though they are squarely located in just one.

Eastern Cape 

  • SABC PE 
  • Grassridge Transmission Station, Addo 
  • SA Reserve Bank, Port Elizabeth
  • SA Reserve Bank, East London
  • SABC Bhisho 
  • EC Provincial Legislature
  • Oil Tanking Grinrod Caluto (Ltd) Port of Ngqura 
  • Former Pres NR Mandela Qunu Village

Free State 

  • Vaaldam 
  • Natref Petronet Pump Station, Bethlehem 
  • Coalbrook Petrol Pump Station 
  • Sasol Pump Station 
  • Perseus Transmission Station 
  • Centlec Pty (Ltd) Electricity Distribution Station 
  • SABC Free State (BFN) Kroonstad Pump Station 
  • Lethabo Power Station
  • SA Reserve Bank, Bloemfontein
  • FS Provincial Legislature, Bloemfontein
  • Magdala TPL Depot
  • Wilge TPL Depot

Free State / Northern Cape

  • Hydra Transmission Station
  • SABC Kimberley Northern Cape
  • Square Kilometer Array Site (SKA)
  • NC Provincial Legislature


  • Onderstepoort Biological Products 
  • Union Buildings Presidency
  • Mahlambandlovu Pres Res
  • Sefako Makgatho Presidential Res
  • OR Tambo International airport
  • SSA Communication Centre
  • Main Telephone Exchange (PPR)
  • Apollo Transmission Station
  • Minerva Transmission Station
  • SA Bank Note Company
  • Denel Dynamics
  • Pretoria Metal Pressing
  • Pretoria Metal Pressing Pta West
  • Denel Land Systems Lyttelton
  • CSIR Wind Tunnel
  • SA Post Office Computer Centre
  • SA Reserve Bank HQSA 
  • Reserve Bank: Pta North
  • New Cooperation Building ID Factory
  • SABC Tshwane
  • SITA Numerus Building.
  • SITA Centurion
  • Denel Integrated System Solutions
  • SITA Beta
  • Government Printing Works (Sec Print Facility)
  • Waltloo TPL Depot
  • Rheinmetall Denel Munition
  • SABC Building Auckland Park 
  • Sentech Tower in Brixton, Johannesburg
  • SENTECH Transmission & Satellite Centre
  • Office of Interception Centres
  • Eskom National Control Centre, Simmerpan
  • City Power Johannesburg Pty (Ltd)
  • Grootvlei Power Station
  • Former Pres Res NR Mandela GP
  • Former, Pres Res T Mbeki GP
  • Pres Residence of SA GP
  • Gauteng Provincial Legislature
  • ArcelorMittal
  • African Explosives Ltd
  • NCP Chlorchem, Chloorkop, Kempton Park
  • Denel Aviation
  • BAE Systems Benoni
  • SA Mint
  • SA Reserve Bank, Johannesburg
  • Shell Depot Alrode
  • Chevron Alrode
  • Sasol Depot Alrode
  • Total Depot
  • Transnet Pipeline: Alrode
  • Chevron Texaco
  • Transnet Pipeline: Airporte-Natis Facility 
  • Rand Water. Zwartkopjies
  • Rand Water: Zuikerbosch
  • Rand Water: Vereeniging
  • Rand Water: Mapleton
  • Rand Water: Barrage
  • Rand Water: Palmiet
  • Rand Water: Eikenhof
  • Transnet Pipeline Tarlton Distribution Depot
  • Klerksdorp Depot
  • Langlaagte Depot
  • Vaaldam Pump Station
  • Meyerton Depot

Gauteng / North West

  • Transnet Pipeline Rustenburg Depot
  • North West Provincial Legislature
  • Hartebeeshoek Earth Station
  • SA National Space Agency (SANSA)
  • SABC Lt North West


  • SABC Durban
  • Total SA (Cutler) 
  • Acacia Operations Services (Heartland Leasing)
  • Engen Depot (Cutter)
  • Total Depot (Cutler)
  • Valvoline Depot (Cutler)
  • PD Terminals Depot (Cutler)
  • Caleb Brett (Cutler)
  • Industrial Oil Processors (Cutler)
  • Durban Bulk Shipping (Cutler)
  • SA Petroleum Refinery (SAPREF) (Cutler)
  • SA Pretroleum Refinery (SAPREF) Reunion
  • Engen Refinery
  • Natcos (Cutler)
  • Natcos
  • Single Buoy Mooring
  • Transnet Pumping Station: Newcastle
  • Impala Transmission Station
  • Klaarwater Distribution Station
  • Pegasus Transmission Station
  • Drakensberg Power Station
  • Island View Storage (Cutler)
  • Caltex Depot (Cutler)
  • Zenex Depot (Cutler)
  • Durban South Distribution Station
  • Transnet Pumping Station –  Ladysmith
  • Transnet Pumping Station – (Cutler)
  • Transnet Pumping Station – Quegga’s Nek
  • Transnet Pumping Station – Hillcrest
  • Transnet Pumping Station – Howick
  • Transnet Pumping Station – Van Reenen
  • Pres of SA Res  – KZN
  • Presidential Res – JL Dube House
  • New Aviation Fuel Depot at KSIA
  • King Shaka International Airport Air Side
  • Durban North Distribution Station
  • Athene Transmission Station
  • Lotus Park Distribution station
  • SA Reserve Bank: Durban
  • Duzi TPL Depot
  • Mooi River TPL Depot
  • Fortmistake Transnet Pipeline Ladysmith
  • Mngeni TPL Depot
  • Mnambithi TPL Depot
  • Ntwini TPL Depot
  • Hilltop TPL Depot
  • KZN Provincial Legislature


  • Grootdraai Pumping Station
  • SABC, Nelspruit
  • Camden Power Station
  • Hendrina Power Station
  • Kriel Power Station
  • Arnot Power Station
  • Sol Transmission Station
  • Matla Power Station
  • Duvha Power Station
  • Tutuka Power Station
  • Kendal Power Station
  • Komati Power Station
  • Majuba Power Station
  • Mpumalanga Boulevard Riverside Gov Building Nelspruit
  • Transnet Pipeline, Kendal
  • Sasol Secunda
  • Transnet Pipelines, Secunda
  • Jericho Pump Station
  • Rieftontein Pump Station
  • Grootfontein Pump Station
  • Vygeboom Pump Station
  • Bosloop Water Pump Station
  • Nooitgedact Pump Station 
  • Transnet Pipeline Witbank Depot
  • Khutala Pump Station
  • Zaaihoek Pump Station
  • Knoppies Tower

Mpumalanga / Limpopo

  • SABC, Polokwane
  • Mokolo Pump Station, Limpopo Prov
  • Matimba Power Station
  • Limpopo Legislature, Lebowakgomo, Polokwane

Western Cape

  • Parliament House
  • 120 Plain Street, Cape Town
  • Cape Town International Airport
  • SABC Ltd Western Cape
  • Chevron Refinery, Cape Town
  • Saldanha Tank Farm
  • Muldersvlei Transmission Station
  • Acasia Transmission Station
  • Droeriver Transmission Station
  • Koeberg Nuclear Power Station
  • RDM Somerset West
  • RDM Wellington
  • PetroSA Voorbaai
  • SA Reserve Bank, Cape Town
  • PetroSA GTL Refinery
  • Single buoy mooring Voorbaai
  • Klipheuwel Pumping Station
  • FA Production Platform, Mossgas
  • Orca
  • Presidential Res (Genadendal)
  • Former Pres Res FW de Klerk (Sea Point)
  • Former Pres Res NR Mandela (Bishops Court)
  • Office of the Pres of SA (Tuynhuys)
  • SABC: Air Time: Cape Town
  • Western Cape Provincial Legislature
  • Gourikwa Power Station
  • SFF Association Storage
  • Ankerlig Power Station
  • SFF Oil Jetty

*NOTE: The list of key points has been updated to correct formatting errors. An earlier version of this article had “NECSASA National Space Agency (SANSA)” as a key point. It has been updated to “NECSA and SA National Space Agency (SANSA)”