10 years II – The Big South African Pool Cleaner Export Ban Explanation (sort of)

Remember this post – where I suggested that the penalties for the seemingly innocuous crime of exporting a pool cleaner (or bits thereof) from the Republic of South Africa seemed rather harsh? (Not as harsh as those proposed for the proposed Severe Weather Warning Law,  at least in financial terms, but still pretty nasty.)

In terms of the section 2 of the Import and Export Control Act of 1989 (Act 45 of 1983), it is illegal to export Automatic Pool Cleaners and parts thereof. Section 4 of the Act provides that anyone convicted of exporting Automatic Pool Cleaners and parts thereof may be sentenced to a 10 (ten) year term of imprisonment and a fine of R40 000 (forty thousand rand).

Well, a lawyer read that post and she kindly did some background reading for us in a lawyer library place. I can’t make this bit sound particularly exciting I’m afraid, because it actually isn’t, but it is interesting and it is provided as a public service for Lisl who commented on the original about taking a small shark to Scotland.

Herewith a legal take on that warning on the box (which begins with the word “so”, but hey, you can’t have everything):

So, first off, the Act is wrongly cited – it is Act 45 of 1963, not 1983, which somehow makes a little more sense.

Secondly, the (ancient) Act does provide for the R40K or ten years’ imprisonment or both, but it’s a general section. In other words, it’s a section covering import and export generally – it doesn’t mention the specific goods which it covers. The Act itself does not mention the specific goods it covers, they will have been decided by the Minister:

“(1) The Minister may, whenever he deems it necessary or expedient in the public interest, by notice in the Gazette prescribe that no goods of a specified class or kind or no goods other than goods of a specified class or kind-

(a) shall be imported into the Republic; or

(b) shall be imported into the Republic, except under the authority of and in accordance with the conditions stated in a permit issued by him or by a person authorized by him; or

(c) shall be exported from the Republic; or

(d) shall be exported from the Republic, except under the authority of and in accordance with the conditions stated in a permit issued by him or by a person authorized by him.”

So the penalties would have been intended for export and import contraventions of a far more serious nature. Quite how the Automatic Pool cleaners got onto the list, I have no idea, but at least we know that the penalties were not instituted with pool cleaners in mind.

Act 45 of 1963 has been repealed in its entirety. I have absolutely no idea what Act is being referred to by ‘Import and Export Control Act of 1989’ – I can find no such act (not to mention, it’s nonsensical to refer to a 1989 Act and then cite, wrongly, a 1983 Act in brackets straight after it). The 1963 Act was repealed by a 2002 Act which is long and complicated, and sadly I don’t have the time to see whether pool cleaners make an appearance in terms of that Act. I doubt it.

In short, the packaging needs some work. At the very least, it cites the legislation incorrectly. At worst (and I will try to confirm this on another day!) it refers to legislation neither in force nor incorporated into current legislation. Does that help?

This all sounded very interesting to me (like The Bold And The Beautiful), but I understood very little of it (like The Bold And The Beautiful). Time for me to put it into layman’s terms then:

OK. Basically as I understand it, Automatic pool cleaners and parts thereof [APCs (apt)] were banned from import and export in 1963 (although they weren’t), 11 years before they were invented. Forethought.
So it doesn’t exist and if it did exist, it doesn’t anymore and even if it did exist and doesn’t anymore, it doesn’t/didn’t refer to APCs (apt).

So this is complete BS? In which case, why are they printing it on the side of their boxes?

I don’t get it and I don’t like things I don’t get.

This is why we need legal people. To find out what the other legal people have done/are doing wrong.

Oh, and why are Katie and Bill bickering about who Hope should be with?

To which I got this reply (again beginning with “so”):

Sort of. The legislation will have come into effect in 1963, or shortly thereafter. The Minister will have announced (presumably because it was ‘necessary or expedient in the public interest’) by notice in a Government Gazette that APC’s were of a kind or class etc to be covered by this section. For present purposes I will assume that, astounding as the South African government’s powers of fortune-telling were in 1963, this GG notice was made post the invention of APC’s.

I suspect that given the Kreepy Krauly is a South African invention, one of which (I’m told) we are very proud, the motivation to provide protection under this section was a result of the fact that intellectual property protection was in its infancy. Nowadays a patent would suffice but I’m pretty sure enforcement of international patents at that stage was a far trickier business. Adding it to the list of goods closely controlled for export and import purposes would have given the SA govt some control over the invention. That’s my guess anyway.

As to why they are still printing it on the side of boxes, yeah, you’ve got me there. Habit?

It is possible that APCs are still covered by current legislation and the legislative reference has just not been updated. But as I said, I doubt it.

So there you have it. A legal eagle suggests that you will possibly get away with exporting APCs (apt) from South Africa. I have her name and contact details should you need bailing out of the cells at Edinburgh Airport. That said, as she is a lawyer, this will cost you an arm and a leg, so maybe you’d be better just showing them this post and they’ll let you go. Note that this might not happen as my word has surprisingly little influence in Scotland, where they have only just mastered the basic vowel sounds.

Thanks @MingBean

Ten Years

I remember going and watching some comedy festival or other soon after I arrived in SA back in 2004. One of the British comics there was poking fun at the low cost of living here and the favourable exchange rate, tying it in to a sign he’d seen near Cape Town:

Please Do Not Feed The Baboons – Fine R500

The tale goes that the comedian felt sorry for the poor baboons not being fed and decided to throw them an impromptu tea party, which obviously proved extremely popular with the local primate population and was therefore well attended. When the authorities turned up, the Brit happily got out his wallet with the R500  “monopoly money” fine therein, only to be told that it was “R500… per baboon”.

Sure, it’s not funny when it’s explained – delivery is everything – but that “R500… per baboon” punchline has remained with my wife and I since that day and is used to describe those situations where the penalty or cost seems unusually harsh or high for any given situation.
And it would work very nicely here, with this warning that I spotted today on the side of an automatic pool cleaner (or “Kreepy Krauly“) box:

Yes, apparently: “In terms of the section 2 of the Import and Export Control Act of 1989 (Act 45 of 1983), it is illegal to export Automatic Pool Cleaners and parts thereof. Section 4 of the Act provides that anyone convicted of exporting Automatic Pool Cleaners and parts thereof may be sentenced to a 10 (ten) year term of imprisonment and a fine of R40 000 (forty thousand rand).”

Wow. Who knew?
Sure, drugs, stolen goods, money even – all have understandable restrictions on their import and export. But Automatic Pool Cleaners (and parts thereof)? Why?

I haven’t had a lot of sleep this week and it may be for that reason that I can’t come up with any good reason why this may be, save for maybe some businessman slipping a backhander to his mate in the Apartheid government in order to protect his local Automatic Pool Cleaner business from cheaper foreign imports. In addition, I really don’t have time to research this further today, so if anyone does have the genuine reason (or any suggestion) why this may be the case, please drop it into the comments below.

In the meantime, “Ten Years… per automatic pool cleaner”…?

Credit where it’s due (but only where it’s due)

I’m not South African, but I like to think of myself as an honorary Saffa. I do my bit for the country, I pay my taxes, I’m optimistic in a realistic sort of way and I try to buy South African goods and products as well as punting them on my blog if they’re any good.

I’ve said before that there’s no point in painting a wholly rosy picture of South Africa and ignoring the negative things that plague us. Not only is that completely misleading, but also it doesn’t bring those negative issues to the fore and therefore does nothing to sort them out. I think Jacques Rousseau made a similar point yesterday regarding the recent Kuli Roberts column debacle.

So having established that there’s no point in ignoring the negatives, please can we agree that equally, there’s no point in blindly praising everything just because it’s South African? This sort of behaviour is also completely misleading, unnecessarily raises expectations of products far too high and encourages disappointment in the real world (the world without rainbow nation-tinted specs). I’m sorry to tell you this, but there is no such thing as something being great, just because it’s South African.

Take, for example, the Kreepy-Krauly. The Kreepy-Krauly is an automated suction-side driven swimming pool cleaner: a hoover for your pool. And ask anyone round these parts for an interesting fact about the Kreepy-Krauly and they will tell you – pride oozing from every orifice – that it was invented in South Africa.

And they’d be right:

The first swimming pool vacuum cleaner was invented by Ferdinand Chauvier in South Africa

Nice work, Ferdinand. Or was it? Because in actual fact, the Kreepy-Krauly is rubbish. Rather than: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to move forward along the floor and walls of the pool picking up dirt and debris as it moves” as you’ll read in the brochure, something along the lines of: “the suction provided by the pool’s pump causes the robot to repeatedly get stuck in one corner of the pool, leaving the dirt and debris everywhere else” is probably more accurate. So the description of a Kreepy-Krauly as “automated” is a bit of a misnomer, since once you’ve shelled out the exorbitant cost of buying one, you will constantly have to assist it in its work by untangling it and freeing it from the step of your pool. And then cleaning up the dirt and debris yourself.
So yes, the Kreepy-Krauly is South African-invented, but that’s nothing to be proud of.

The same goes for music. I’m all for 5fm and the like having a SA music quota on their playlist, but really, some of the stuff they then end up subjecting us to is utter bilge.

Durban-based band The Arrows, for example. They recently gave us the rather watery but catchy Lovesick which made it onto said playlist. And that was “ok”, because the track was “ok” – not amazing – but “ok”. And then they release No Robots, the chorus of which sounds like the lead singer has grabbed an electric fence and is struggling to let it go. Seriously, they’ve been banned from playing it live at several venues as the local ambulance service (and sometimes the local SPCA as well) get calls from the 15 people in the crowd requesting urgent medical assistance “because something’s in pain”. And yet, because it’s South African, it gets airplay.

I’ve singled out The Arrows for a bit of criticism and that’s not fair, because there are other bands out there who are doing the same and getting away with it thanks to the apparent quota system. “We’ll endorse anything” band, The Parlotones (and I’m sure lead singer Khan Morbee won’t mind me telling you this *cough*) have been churning out rubbish from the pisspoor Stardust Galaxies album for well over a year now, but it gets played. Goldfish have somehow fooled the hipsters into thinking that they have released lots of different singles, whereas if you listen carefully, it’s just the same song on repeat. And still they get played.

Why does this happen? Is it because the music industry in SA is so small and fragile, they feel they need to give it this ill-thought support? Or is it merely a matter of national pride? Whatever, the powers that be need to think again on how they judge these things. Base your decisions on quality, not nationality, because much like endorsing the South African Kreepy-Krauly, supporting average local music devalues the good work that bands like Ashtray Electric, Zebra & Giraffe and Goodluck are doing and doesn’t contribute to raising the standard at all (not that I am suggesting that if/when they give us a duff single it should be played either). Is it really any wonder that there are so few local bands making it internationally when mediocrity is encouraged in this way?

Much as I don’t think we should be papering over the cracks as far as crime and corruption are concerned, neither do I think we should be telling people that all South African products and music are great when they patently are not.

All I’m asking for is a bit of honesty.