Mutshamaxitulu, [Chairperson,] ...
... Deputy President, Ministers and Members of Parliament, challenges facing the democratic South Africa are influenced by science, information technology, and economic development, as the world is shrinking daily in a functional manner.
In the olden days scales were used in trading environments where beans, flour or meat would be put on a scale and all weighed the same way. In this way goods were sold to consumers. Nowadays most measuring instruments are digital, in keeping with the technological development of world standards.
Historically the regulator's role was limited to examining the scales that I spoke of. He or she was limited to ensuring that those scales were well calibrated. The South African Bureau of Standards also played a great role in that regard.
What motivated amendment of the Act? The amendment of the Act was motivated by the fact that the tools that have to be monitored have increased in scope so that the responsibility of the DTI in this regard is wider than it was historically. Some of the new areas to be supervised by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications are blood pressure monitoring machines and electricity and water metering systems.
There is an essential relationship between the South Africa Bureau of Standards, the NRCS and the Department of Water Affairs. The regulator approves the measurement system, ensures that it can be used and monitors it continually to ensure that it is compliant. Some of the tools to be monitored and approved by the NRCS are speed trap measuring tools, so that cars that exceed the speed limit can be prosecuted successfully.
Consumers have to be protected in areas like thermometer usage and prepacked medications, eg, cough mixture. If measurements are not properly monitored it could result in death, as some speakers preceding me have said. Some of the verification functions are: supervising laboratories, verifying measuring instruments and focusing on users in the industry to ensure improved levels of service to the public.
Another motivation for this step to be taken is that rural areas are sometimes ignored by the private sector in this regard. The private sector is only focused on maximum profit and considers it uneconomic to meet verification needs in the industry in rural places. The regulator has an obligation to provide such a service.
One of the objectives of the Legal Metrology Bill is to protect consumers against unscrupulous, exploitative service providers and businesses. It is also to repair that measuring instruments and ensure they are in compliance. It is also to monitor the in manner of use, and the possession or sale of measuring instruments and products.
In regard to the repair of measuring instruments, the Bill allows people that repair instruments to be registered with a repair body. If they are not registered, they will be acting illegally and ...
... ijele liyobe libafanele impela. [... prison would be suitable for them.]
This is in line with ensuring that people with correct and adequate competencies repair measuring instruments.
Indaba yomkokotelo ayifuneki neze lapha. [We don't need incompetent people.]
Secondly, the Bill allows for the elimination of conflict of interest with respect to the repair person and the person verifying the instrument of measurement, by not allowing the repair person to verify the instrument. In other words, you cannot be a technician who repairs the instrument and at the same time verify that the instrument is correct. The verification has to be done by another party. This will ensure that instruments of measurement that are not repaired correctly or have faults do not pass verification tests and get to measure incorrectly for the consumer. Further, the Bill allows for the person that does the repairs to give a guarantee to the user that the instrument of measurement has been repaired and measures correctly. This guarantee should be given before the instrument of measurement is utilised.
The above points, as proposed by the Bill, will put the user - the consumer - at ease that the measurement given when using that instrument is correct. Confidence is of utmost importance.
Moreover, should a person repairing an instrument of measurement not comply with the requirements of this Bill, that person is guilty of an offence.
Regarding the manner of use, the possession or the sale of measuring instruments and products, the Bill only allows for the sale of verified measuring instruments. It prohibits the sale of false, faulty or inaccurate measuring instruments. It also prohibits any person from making a false statement of quantity, incorrectly declaring the quality of a product, or misleading any person in regard to quantity. This further ensures that consumers buy the correct quantity of goods and are not misled into paying a certain amount for a smaller quantity.
Where are these accurate measurements needed? As the preceding speakers have said, they are needed, for example, on freeways where trucks carrying heavy loads that damage the roads are charged in accordance with the weight. It is important that the machinery that weighs them is accurate.
The industry itself is encouraged to do a whole lot of self-assessment and self-management, particularly of the areas of repair work and verification work. It must not always wait for government to criticise it - self- criticism is sometimes important for the industry.
As I finish my speech, let me say, hon McIntosh, that you were saved by the Chairperson. Otherwise ...
... bengizogibela phezu kwakho! [... I would be on your case!]
Chairperson, you really saved hon McIntosh.
Hon member James, I think you will agree with me that the DTI consults widely. On this Bill it consulted, held public hearings and also made sure that all interested parties made inputs so that by the time the Act is amended, all the inputs and concerns have been taken into account. In other words, I differ with you when you say that sometimes the Minister use shortcut routes. He always takes a long route, but an effective one. Thank you very much, members. [Applause.]