ACDP and DA Members of Parliament walked out on the first day of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill) clause-by-clause deliberations following a rancorous debate between them and ANC MPs over the final report on the public participation process. The walk-out left the meeting without a quorum and the meeting had to be abandoned for the day.
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has set aside four days to go through the proposed BELA Bill on a clause-by-clause basis. The controversial bill was rejected in several provinces, and discrepancies in figures make it look likely that the majority of South African’s who commented rejected the Bill.
This looks to be a major defeat for the ANC who would like to argue that the Bill was supported by the majority of submissions as they try and steer the Bill through the National Assembly and through what looks like it is going to be an equally contentious National Council of Provinces public consultation process.
At question are 9 000 submissions that are not being considered. Controversy erupted when Hon. Marie Sukers (ACDP) and Bux Nodada (DA) pointed out the flaws in the numbers being reported. These submissions are all email submissions made during the initial parliamentary public comment period in 2022. On 1 November 2022, it was reported to the Portfolio Committee that 17 452 emails had been received and that of the 3 504 that were processed, to that date, nearly 90% were in opposition to the Bill. Some 9 000 of those are “the remainder” that are not going to be processed.
Sukers states that, “These 9 000 submissions, which are not included in the final report, and I underscore the final report, if counted will likely show that the Bill has been rejected by the majority of the public. I left the meeting because I was being silenced, and with me the voice of 9 000 South Africans. Parliament not only has to keep faith with the public who have commented, and to whom it owes a duty, but also has to uphold the Constitution and ensure accountability.”
“Members of Parliament, the media, and the general public all have a democratic duty to hold the committee accountable to produce detailed and accurate reports that honour the efforts ordinary South Africans make to comment on a Bill that impacts their children”, concludes Sukers.
The Committee reconvenes tomorrow.