Committee debates weather bill

2012-02-14 18:02

Cape Town - A clause should be added into the draft SA Weather Service amendment bill to review the legitimacy of cases against offenders, Parliament's environmental affairs portfolio committee heard on Tuesday.

"We should look at including the National Director of Public Prosecutions and provincial directors as a protection for [Section 30A] clause 1a and 1b," chairperson Johnny de Lange said.

Allowing these parties to review offences would protect innocent people and stop abuse of potentially open-ended wording.

He said that clause 1b, which prohibited the publishing, distribution or supply of false or misleading information about the weather service, could be used to intimidate people.

It could theoretically criminalise competitive advertising in a commercial sector.

Enviromental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said the bill was never intended to criminalise minor issues, but rather "issues of national importance".

The committee was deliberating on comments made during public hearings in January.

De Lange brought forward a proposal on Tuesday for re-wording certain clauses.

The original draft stated that no one could issue a severe weather warning without the necessary written permission from the weather service.

This clause caused an uproar from various weather businesses and related parties who called it unconstitutional.

Section 30A, clause one, now stated that no person could publish, disseminate or distribute in any manner whatsoever any weather-related information, including a severe weather-related warning which consists of a potential, imminent or existing threat of dangerous weather conditions.

The proposal would add a condition that the person believed, or ought to have reasonably known or suspected, that the information was false or misleading.

Another condition would be that the warning incited or could incite public reaction and lead to undue mobilisation of resources, public alarm, evacuations or economic loss.

The committee was tasked with deliberating on whether the department or weather service was more equipped to issue air pollution warnings.

A draft clause tasked the weather service with this function, but De Lange cautioned that the body may not have the savvy to issue warnings in a way that would protect economic interests.

He said the department may be better placed for this function as it had an existing relationship with the manufacturing industry and others.

Some committee members warned that urgent air pollution warnings would not reach intended audiences in time if they first had to go through the department.

The committee would meet again after studying all proposed changes.

- SAPA

Read more on:    saws  |  johnny de lange  |  edna molewa  |  weather  |  legislation
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