Twitter storm over Nkandla picture 'ban'

The security cluster says images of President Jacob Zuma’s residence are not legal.

President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: City Press.

PRETORIA - Security cluster ministers on Wednesday issued a stern warning about the publishing of photographs of President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla residence.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet briefing in Pretoria, the ministers invoked the controversial National Key Point Act of 1980 and defended the R208 million security upgrades at the compound.

Officials said those who publish photos may face the full might of the law.

The ministers faced questions about the battle over Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's report, fiercely defending their position.

State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele says their job is to ensure national security is not compromised.

"No one, including those in the media, are allowed to take images and publicise images, even pointing where the possible security features are."

But the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) disagrees with the claim, saying the act is being misused.

"In this case, it unfortunately seems that the ministers are using security laws to avoid accounting to the public on the Nkandla upgrades," the statement read.

"It has never been the intention of the media to undermine President Zuma's security by publishing these pictures."

Sanef says it's important to remember that the upgrades will continue to benefit the president and his family long after he completes his term in office, meaning it is not exclusively state property.

"We will continue to publish images of the Nkandla upgrades because we firmly believe there is immense public interest in doing so. To stop doing so will be a betrayal of our duty as watchdogs of democracy."

The forum also argues photographs of other key points such as the Union Buildings in Pretoria and Parliament in Cape Town would also have to be banned under the latest interpretation from government.

Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos agrees, describing the security cluster's statement as "nonsense".

Response from other Twitter users has been strong, with many posting pictures of the compound in direct contravention of the cluster's demands.

Meanwhile, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the state handled security at the homes of all past presidents, saying, "There's no unique situation in this case."

He also says they have no appetite to drag Madonsela in and out of court.

This despite Madonsela saying she wants to "depoliticise" her investigation and effectively shut out the ministers.

Madonsela says she hopes to release the draft report before the end of the year.