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The Weather Service

It is not commonly-known how it is that the weather reporter can so confidently announce to the nation that ‘there is a 70% chance of rain’.

Actually, it’s because, earlier in the tea room, he took a show of hands as to who thinks it will rain.1 Experience tells us that any system of prediction more reliable is, well, precisely just not reliable.

Or so it used to be. Satellites and computers have spoilt all the fun. Now, it’s pretty accurate, weather prediction is, and that is what the South African Weather Service Act 20012 is all about.

Administered by the Minister of Environment Affairs, it established the South African Weather Service. This provides a host of meteorological, climatological, air-quality, disaster management and databank services both for the public good3 and for commercial exploitation.4

A. Severe weather

Severe weather seems to feature regularly these days. The Act defines it5 as an ‘extreme meteorological event or phenomenon, which represents a real hazard to human life or property and has the potential to cause damage, serious social disruption, loss of human life, or economic loss’.

  1. It is an offence to publish, disseminate or distribute, in any manner whatsoever, any severe weather warning which you know or believe (or ought to) to be false or misleading.6

  2. It is also an offence to publish, disseminate or distribute any severe weather warning which may incite public reaction which may lead to the undue7 mobilisation of resources, public alarm or evacuations, or economic loss arising from such actions.8

B. Misrepresentation

  1. Any person who impersonates, or falsely represents himself to be an employee of the Weather Service, or falsely purports to act on behalf of the Weather Service commits an offence.9

  2. It is also an offence to use the official corporate branding of the Weather Service, or corporate branding closely resembling that of the Weather Service, with the intention to deceive a member of the public into believing that the document or message in question originated from the Weather Service.10

  1. The percentage calculation is the difficult part of the weather prediction, if there are not ten people present. 

  2. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 48 of 2013. 

  3. See Schedule 1 to the Act. 

  4. See Schedule 2 to the Act. 

  5. Section 1 of the Act. 

  6. Section 30A(1)(a)(1) read with section 30A(2). 

  7. This is the operative word. 

  8. Section 30A(1)(a)ii read with section 30A(2). 

  9. Section 30A(1)(b) read with section 30A(2). 

  10. Section 30A(1)(c) read with section 30A(2).