Weather bill clause 'unconstitutional'

2012-01-24 22:30

Parliament - A clause in the draft SA Weather Service amendment bill is unconstitutional because it limits freedom of expression, Parliament's environmental affairs committee heard on Tuesday.

A citizen should be entitled to issue a legitimate warning of severe weather without permission from the weather service, the FW de Klerk Foundation said in a submission to public hearings by the committee.

It was a constitutional right to impart information and ideas, the foundation argued.

Television channels and e.sat TV said such a weather warning would constitute the exercise of academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

They agreed that the only limitation to freedom of expression was if something propagated war, incited violence or advocated hatred with incitement to cause harm.

Clause 30A of the bill prohibits the issue of severe weather warnings without permission and criminalises the supply of false or misleading information about the weather service, or an intentional or negligent act which negatively affects the organisation.

The clause was a bone of contention for many parties, who described it as vague.

FW de Klerk Foundation executive director Dave Steward said information was often "false and misleading" in the eye of the beholder and there could be legitimate differences of opinion on anything. He said information which negatively affected an organisation could positively affect the public, as in the case of incompetence and corruption.

In a submission by and e.sat TV, legal representatives Steven Budlender and Nick Ferreira said the terms "severe weather warning" and "issuing" were not clear.

"Does a warning of gale force winds qualify? Or does it have to be a warning of a hurricane?" they asked.

The Centre for Environmental Rights took issue with the permission process.

"There is no indication in the bill as to the specific circumstances in which the weather service's permission is required, nor how such permission should be sought," spokesperson Melissa Fourie said.

"Also, there is no indication of the time frame within which the weather service would have to indicate whether or not it will provide this permission. Presumably, these issues would be prescribed in regulations."

The Society of Master Mariners SA said the clause contradicted the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, a treaty to which it was contracted.

Captain Rob Whitehead said the treaty required the master of a ship to communicate information about dangerous weather conditions to ships in the vicinity and competent authorities. He requested that the clause be amended to include treaty conditions.

Public hearings resume on Wednesday.

  • Grunt - 2012-01-24 23:08

    Gee, we have heavy weather ahead!

      Sheda - 2012-01-25 08:45

      Are we then allowed to jail members of the Weather Service for supplying DAILY LIES about our weather. I have yet to find them accurate (that is a better pass rate than a 50/50 guess) Can you imagine going to jail because you tell your mate not to cross a river because it is in flood ? Divide and rule is the oldest form of political control and the ANC are becoming masters of it.

  • Bob - 2012-01-25 00:21

    This is just a move to oust competing weather forecast services from stating these warnings thereby forcing everyone wanting to know extended weather forecasts to have to use the official “South African Weather Service (SAWS)” …. - Which just so happens to be a frigging PAY service if you want extended forecast information including ADERSE WEATHER ALERTS. This is a just move to force you to pay a monthly subscription of R40-00 up to R180-00 per month to get extended weather reporting, which competing weather services will not be allowed to provide you ad hock in terms of the new bill…! Another way to rape the SA people by making them pay for a service that should be free in the first place..! Shame on you South African Government…you are morally bankrupt!

      gbbfg - 2012-01-25 03:47

      That's exactly it.

      Squeegee - 2012-01-25 07:13

      Investigate whoever propagated this 'daft' Bill. I'm sure there will be a money trail or family connections back to the weather service/website.

  • Sally Lewitt - 2012-01-25 01:49

    Now this just puts me under the weather.. Just look at the fiasco of flooding in the and around the Kruger Park less than two weeks ago!! We left "just in time" but had no "warning" on the bazaar "weather" that was to follow so other could take precautions and the park safety measures! Ai Ai!! We were internationally warned about the "sun bolt" heading our way for days now.. Go figure..

  • Peter - 2012-01-25 05:03

    The reasons given for the need of this bill is really laughable. It must also be a world-first, perhaps with the exception of North Korea. Unfortunately it could potentially result in the loss of property or even human life.

  • Riaan Werner Van Wyk - 2012-01-25 05:22

    Wow fantastic 'democracy' we have in SA! Bah!

  • Heinrich - 2012-01-25 06:18

    I thought being human is sharing knowledge to the benefit of all. We really must rid ourselves of these elements who put control (suppression), "power" and money above human development.

  • mathilde.duplessis - 2012-01-25 08:01

    Uncommon common sense from parliament!

  • flysouth - 2012-01-25 08:21

    This is a result of handing over distribution of weather info to private interests. Right now if I need detailed met info as a pilot I will have to pay something like R300 per month to subscribe to the service available through private interests who have been awarded the franchise to hijack provision of these essential services. Such services used to be free to aviation users - or to anyone else - with a simple telephone call one would receive a briefing on likely weather en route. In fact today with the internet it is even cheaper to provide detailed weather information - there should be no charge as this is a critical safety issue. This is what the ANC is doing to our country - they are selling it off bit by bit to their buddies under the guise of privatisation and 'user-pays'!

      Heinrich - 2012-01-25 12:26

      The ANC is very progressive and far sighted. We need to show the world that we have a vibrant economy, to attract foreign investment. Our GDP figure is a good indicator of our economic performance. Included in the GDP calculation is the remuneration packages of government officials. The higher this figure, the better our GDP looks. So, the ANC employs many more people in government service than is necessary, and also pays them each 10 times more than they would have earned elsewhere. Other actions embarked upon by the ANC is the encouragement of unauthorized removal of assets. This necessitates the replacement of assets and boosts the insurance industry. Also there is targeted mismanagement such as in road safety, which stimulates the economy (auto repairs, replacements, medical services etc.) to a great degree. The commercialisation of weather services will further enhance the economic image of South Africa. A pre-paid weather advice system is envisaged, whereby all kinds of weather can be bought from the government ahead of time. This will truly put S.A. firmly on the map as a dynamic turd world powerhouse.

  • Gerard - 2012-01-25 12:18

    Is it illegal for me to say:" I think it's going to rain like hell!"?

  • r.mashigo - 2012-01-25 13:49

    even the weather has politics???

  • Guy Goes - 2013-11-13 08:01

    This mampara government thinks that it is more capable than its educated citizens. I think these lawmakers have long lost the plot of reasoning. They bumble along in madly overpaid jobs which nobody would offer them, only the south African government. In fact it is clear to me that if one listens to the likes of Rob Davies and most other ministers blundering along, that they are clueless. I would never employ any of them, they are not worth a cent. We are forced to conduct our businesses in an enviroment set by drones who never ran anything. anywhere.

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