Outrage over weather bill
Cape Town - Amendments to the SA Weather Service bill that threaten independent forecasters with fines and imprisonment for issuing severe weather warnings are draconian, the Democratic Alliance said on Thursday.
"[They are] an attempt... to establish and protect an unfair monopoly on services offered by the Weather Service, some of which are commercial services," said DA environmental spokesperson Gareth Morgan.
"The bill, if passed in its current form, will have various undesirable consequences, and will make South Africans less safe," he said.
Against the law
The bill would make it illegal for someone to issue warnings about severe weather or air pollution without written permission from the national weather service.
It would also make it an offence to supply false or misleading information about the weather service, or intentionally or negligently commit an act which negatively affects the organisation.
An aim of the bill was to limit the damage caused by incorrect forecasts about dangerous weather.
First offenders could face up to five years in prison or a R5m fine while subsequent offenders faced a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment or a R10m fine.
The bill would limit the liability of the weather service in any damage, loss or injury caused by its actions under the act.
A new clause would also allow a court to compensate the weather service for any monetary advantage the accused would have gained from a relevant offence.
"Perhaps the Weather Service sees this as a potential new income stream for itself," Morgan said.
He said it was concerning that the bill failed to define a "severe weather event".
It was more concerning that a citizen with vital information about a tornado, for example, would face "clumsy bureaucracy" when applying for written permission to broadcast a warning, he said.
"There is no reason to believe that the Weather Service, with its limited ability to measure and observe weather changes all around South Africa in real time, can respond quickly to all severe weather events, offering affected people sufficient warning."
Morgan called for the offences clause to be removed.
Interested parties could submit written comment on the bill before the end of Thursday.
Public hearings were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.