Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation on 07/02/2024 


Yesterday morning (6 February 2024) Parliament’s second house, the National Council of Provinces (“NCOP”), met to decide whether to grant the Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s (“WCPP”) request for an extension of the period for comments and hearings related to the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (“the BELA Bill”).

As reasons for its request, the WCPP cited that on “the face of it, the Bill has far-reaching implications for the residents of the Western Cape, and is likely to garner significant public interest… given the complexity, nature, scope and possible impact of the Bill, it will most likely require the Committee to extend public hearings far and wide across the province.” The WCPP also stated that it has already received requests from organisations that wish to make expert submissions on the Bill. 

Despite the WCPP’s request for a month-long extension, in order for it to facilitate adequate public involvement, the NCOP decided to only grant a two (2) week extension. 

The FW de Klerk Foundation’s Executive Director, Christo van der Rheede, notes that the WCPP’s plea for additional time stemmed from legitimate concerns that it will be unable to fulfil its constitutional obligations to facilitate meaningful public participation (as required by section 118 of the Constitution). “The Foundation echoes these concerns, because meaningful public participation is important to produce better laws, as it allows people to have say in the making of the laws that govern them. Our Constitutional Court has held numerous times that meaningful public participation requires that a reasonable opportunity be given to the public to know about the issues and to have an adequate say,” says van der Rheede. “The Court has also recently reiterated that saving time in itself does not justify inadequate opportunities for public involvement.”

The proposed amendments in the BELA Bill risk eroding the autonomy of School Governing Bodies (SGBs), undermining language rights. 

Additionally, the Bill’s discriminatory provisions against undocumented learners raise significant ethical and practical concerns, posing undue barriers to accessing basic education.