Friday, 6 January 2012

What's up with the SA Weather Service Amendment Bill 2011?

Of main concern to the SAWDOS is the insertion of section 30A in Act 8 of 2001.  The insertion reads:

12. The following section is hereby inserted in the principal Act after section 30:
‘‘Offences and penalties

30A. (1) No person may—
(a) issue a severe weather or air pollution-related warning without the
necessary written permission from the Weather Service;
(b) supply false or misleading information about the Weather Service;
(c) unlawfully, intentionally or negligently commit any act or omission
which detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect the
Weather Service.
(2) A person who contravenes any provisions of subsection (1), is guilty
of an offence and is liable, in the case of a first conviction, to a fine not
exceeding five million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five
years, and in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not
exceeding ten million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10
years, or in both instances to both such fine and such imprisonment,
(3) Whenever any person is convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
and it appears that such person has by that offence caused loss or damage to
any organ of state or other person, the court may in the same proceedings at
the written request of the Minister or other organ of state or other person
concerned, and in the presence of the convicted person, inquire summarily
and without pleadings into the amount of the loss or damage so caused.
(4) Upon proof of such amount, the court may give judgment therefor in
favour of the organ of state or other person concerned against the convicted
person, and such judgment shall be of the same force and effect and be
executable in the same manner as if it had been given in a civil action duly
instituted before a competent court.
(5) Whenever any person is convicted of an offence under subsection (2),
the court convicting such person may summarily enquire into and assess the
monetary value of any advantage gained or likely to be gained by such
person in consequence of that offence, and, in addition to any other
punishment imposed in respect of that offence, the court may order—
(a) the award of damages or compensation or a fine equal to the amount so
assessed; or
(b) that such remedial measures as the court may determine must be
undertaken by the convicted person.
(6) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any other law, a
Magistrate’s Court shall have the jurisdiction to impose any penalty
prescribed by this Act.’’.

I have highlighted the areas of grave concern to the SAWDOS.

The Bill proposes the insertion of section 30A. This amendment will, amongst others, make it an offence for any person to issue a severe weather warning.....

As the amendment bill now reads nobody will be able to issue any warning of approaching severe weather. In other words if you see severe weather approaching you will not be allowed to warn anybody via any medium as this will constitute and offence punishable with a fine not exceeding five million rand or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.

This means if you observe a tornado that can strike a township say for instance in Mamelodi in 10 minutes time, you will not be allowed to warn people by means of any media or multi-media or even by word of mouth as this will constitute an offence and you will first have to get permission from the SA Weather Service and by that time it will be to late. We should keep in mind that this is legislation and having been in legal circles for 26 years the crux lies in No person may—(a) issue a severe weather or air pollution-related warning...

The only exception made is the fact that one can obtain permission from the SA Weather Service to issue such a warning BUT and this is a VERY BIG BUT, experience has learned that to get permission from any institution takes time that is if you can get hold of the designated person.

The way daily warnings are issued by the SA Weather Service is via there web-site, radio and TV stations. I was also informed that the SA Weather Service send warnings to Disaster Management who on their turn must warn the general public. In many instances these warnings are late or not issued at all. The lack of Disaster Management offices across South Africa is another concerning factor.

The SAWDOS has decided to submit written comments on the subject to the Portfolio Committee Water and Environmental Affairs.

Update to follow soon.

1 comment:

  1. Such a load of hog,just because they (SAWS) want to be the only weather information. The worst is when SAWS give weather warning or forecasts they take the whole province basically into consideration eg 30% rain for Kwa Zulu Natal ....that is not accurate at all,that does not mean Empangeni would have rain ..At least with observers on the ground tweeting we have a more accurate indication of weather ,how bad it really is and how close it is to where the person stays.

    Quite a while back there was no warning of rain or any kind of bad weather forecast from SAWS for Empangeni area so was quite a surprise when I recorded 80mm of rain in a hour in my back yard...and was able to tweet about it.
    And very often the temp. here climbs over 37degrees ..My point is that SAWS is NOT accurate for any given day as what people living in an area or driving through a town or city is....

    So does this mean that ACCU WEATHER and all the other weather information/applications we have on our phones and laptops, we are not allowed to retweet or post to Facebook or we will be fined or sent to jail...??

    What is this world coming to?