Hon Deputy Speaker, on 4 November 2006, an electricity blackout was triggered in Germany that ended up affecting more than 15 million households, not only in Germany but also Austria, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. On 26 February 2008, a failed switch and fire at an electrical substation outside Miami triggered widespread blackouts along the west coast of the United States of America, affecting over 4 million people. Also a affected by this blackout was Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Centre. Planes could not take off, trains came to a standstill, people were stuck in lifts, businesses had to close and traffic came to a halt. The chaos that erupted one can only but imagine.
The electricity blackout in Germany affecting other European countries compelled the European Commission's Director-General for Energy and Transport to start asking the question, "Which of the infrastructure within the European Union will have the biggest impact and need to be protected?"
The September 11 attacks in New York not only brought the whole city to a standstill, but its effects were felt all over the rest of the world. Flights were stopped, people were stranded and the markets closed down. I was attending an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Burkina Faso as part of the South African delegation. Tens of thousands of kilometres from New York, we were affected by that incident. Also, this attack compelled the United States of America to relook and re-evaluate the identification of national key assets or critical infrastructure and their protection thereof. All democracies in the world have national key assets or critical infrastructure. [Applause.]
A question has been asked here today as to what exactly a key asset or critical infrastructure is. I will try and explain, but I know it's not going to be heard. It is those systems and assets, whether it's physical or virtual - in other words, computer systems - so vital to a country that their destruction, or even the temporary incapacity thereof, would have a debilitating impact on the security, the economic security, the national public health or the safety of a nation. It is therefore not rocket science to see that it is vitally necessary for any country to protect these installations. In order to do so, it is necessary to clearly identify them by conducting a proper evaluation thereof and to implement the necessary security measures.
Continuous evaluation also needs to be done to improve and upgrade, if necessary. Our infrastructure is vulnerable and we depend on it. We need to protect it, not only against possible terrorist attacks, but also flooding, earthquakes, landslides and any other possible natural disasters, and criminal activities. That is the duty of any government, and the ANC government will not shy away from that responsibility. [Applause.]
Hon Deputy Speaker and members, you might be as confused as I am as to why we are having this debate. Let me explain why I am saying this. First of all, during his budget speech, the Minister of Police indicated to this House in this Chamber that he is reviewing this Act. Secondly, on Wednesday this week the DA, in what can only be described as a publicity stunt, released to the media their own concept legislation called the Protection of Critical Infrastructure Bill, knowing full well that the Minister did announce the review of the National Key Points Act.
So, in essence, there is agreement in this House that, as a country, we need to protect our key infrastructure and our assets. There is also agreement that the National Key Points Act is outdated and, flowing from that, needs to be reviewed. Or is it actually far more simple and transparent? Is it not as clear as glass that the purpose of this debate was not the Leader of the Opposition or her party's sudden interest in our country's security, but a last desperate attempt to get to the President, a man they loathe? I actually went through the DA's concept Bill, and a couple of things are quite glaring and telling. The first is that we must be extremely grateful that the DA is not in government as they would govern through boards and committees. [Applause.] They also privatise, in this Bill, the executive authority's function by saying that the board will determine and declare areas of critical infrastructure. What is more, Minister, in this Bill, in the same section where they deal with the board, they appoint a board of 11 or 12 people. These people are all government officials but, not knowing the Public Finance Management Act, PFMA, they then say that they must be paid. [Laughter.] Please, I mean, how can we take you seriously?
Clause 12(8) best demonstrates the lack of understanding of the opposition and the ignorance with regard to security matters. In this clause, they state that this board will publish a list of titles and sectors of all places and areas declared on the SA Police Service's, SAPS, website. So, in fact, they are saying to the world - friend and foe - please, do not waste your time targeting building X, building Y is actually the one that is critical to us. This openness is another reason that interests me.
This comes from the same party whose leader, the Premier of the Western Cape, for two years, sat on the learner transport report addressing the bus accident in Rheenendal; it comes from the same party whose leader and the Premier of the Western Cape hid an internal Treasury report on communications contracts exposing, amongst others, improper cadre deployment; and it's the same party whose mayor in Cape Town does not want to come clean on the Athlone Power Station precinct tender process because allegedly the contract was awarded to political friends and family. [Applause.]
Hon Deputy Speaker, the devil is in the detail. Chapter 6, clause 13(3) of the DA's Bill - by the way, it should be 4, your numbering is wrong - reads as follows, and I quote:
The owner ...