The African Christian Democratic Party wishes to raise concern over discrepancies found in the BELA Bill draft report.
The discrepancies in the report, with a staggering gap of nearly 9 000 overlooked submissions, is of grave concern. Every voice, every opinion, matters.
Parliament has a binding duty, not only legally but morally, to account for each public comment. This will have to be the first order of business when the Committee meets next Tuesday to begin its final deliberations on the Bill.
The existence of these side-lined submissions has been explicitly documented across various draft reports and was again apparent when the final national draft report was tabled before the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on Tuesday this week. Every single submission shapes this Bill to caters for the best interests of students over that of administrative conveniences on the part of the Department of Basic Education (DBE).
Opposition to specific clauses, especially concerning school alcohol sales, home schooling regulation, and access to abortion in schools, needs to recognised and changes must be made to the Bill in this regard.
Whilst administrative efficiency is essential, it should not overshadow the genuine needs and concerns of the public. Safety, quality education, and equal access to resources are the public’s main concerns.
Public sentiment has notably swayed against several of the Bill’s clauses. Clauses such as Clause 27, which considers the closure of underpopulated public primary schools, and Clause 8, which proposes the sale of alcohol at schools, have met substantial resistance. The regulation proposed under Clause 37 for homeschooling, despite a lack of in-depth engagement with homeschooling stakeholders, by the DBE, is another significant point of contention.
Whilst we acknowledge that certain provisions of the Bill have received support, particularly those that grant the MEC the final say on language and admissions policy, the ACDP firmly believes that the solution lies in democratising school governing bodies, not in giving provincial governments more powers.
The state seems intent on dividing communities with the BELA Bill. But South Africans won’t allow for either covert racism on the part of some governing bodies or excessive power to be placed in the hands of the State.
As the ACDP, we remain committed to holding the middle ground and finding a solution that unites all South Africans for the sake of our nation’s children.
In light of the overwhelming feedback and the public’s response to particular provisions, the ACDP has outlined its immediate next steps:
Thorough Review: A comprehensive review and recount of all submissions will be requested, ensuring no voices are suppressed.
Engage Legal Counsel: The ACDP has asked the Committee to seek advice from the parliamentary legal services to ensure all procedural protocols have been met and to address any discrepancies found in the processing of the submissions.
Working for a solution: The ACDP will work with the rest of the Committee to ensure that the Bill is processed lawfully and within a realistic time frame. Tens of millions of Rands have been spent preparing this Bill. Parliament cannot afford to waste money by delivering a Bill that will simply be set aside by the courts.