Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill: Cape Forum Submission & Public Participation Report

NCOP Education, Sciences and Creative Industries

13 March 2024
Chairperson: Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary


In this virtual meeting, the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sport, Arts and Culture was briefed by Cape Forum on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill) [B2B-2022]. Due to an omission, the Cape Forum had not been invited to the oral hearings last week.

The Cape Forum raised ten concerns. These concerns consisted of safety; taxes; housing; energy; water; food security; criminal law system; education; infrastructure, and health.

Cape Forum noted that there were roughly 250 000 people trafficked per year, which was a concern for parents. The safety of schools and what happened to individuals after school was something that was not discussed or approached in the BELA Bill. The BELA Bill was taking away a lot of the rights of individuals at schools. The accommodation issues at schools were also not addressed in the BELA Bill. The lack of energy hindered teaching and learning and created unsafe conditions. This was not addressed in the BELA Bill. There was a lack of reliable water in schools, which raised health and sanitary concerns. The BELA Bill did not mention feeding schemes or school food gardens. It could not go unnoticed that the BELA Bill did address and identify problems in the education system. However, the problem lay with the solutions and remedies. Non-government organisations were willing to help upgrade schools during closing time. There was no realistic approach in the BELA Bill about healthcare in schools, about students and mental health.

The Committee adopted its public participation report on the BELA Bill.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting.

The Committee adopted the meeting agenda.

The Chairperson noted that the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill) [B2B-2022] had been introduced to the Committee on 08 November 2023 and was currently undergoing the public participation process. This was a section 76 bill that was referred to the provincial legislatures to embark on a public participation process in the provinces. The Committee had requested written submissions from the public. Upon receiving written submissions, the Committee embarked on oral submissions from stakeholders and organisations.

The Committee had received a letter from Cape Forum which noted that they had requested to make an oral submission last week but was not called or invited. He apologised for the omission and noted that the submissions were handled by a team of researchers and content advisors, and over 50 000 written submissions were received. Somehow the request for an oral submission by the Cape Forum was missed. Upon receiving this information, the Committee immediately reached out for an opportunity for Cape Forum to present. The written submission has been received. He thanked Cape Forum for availing themselves for this meeting and noted that the Committee was looking forward to hearing their input on the BELA Bill.

Cape Forum was given 30 minutes to present, and thereafter, Members could ask questions.

Briefing by Cape Forum on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill

Mr Bernard Pieters, Manager: Community Activation, Cape Forum, took the Committee through the presentation.

He said that anyone could make a mistake but fixing it showed character. Last week, he had the chance to attend a meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Police, and this week, it was on the BELA Bill for this Committee. He did not come to the Committee as an education expert even though he had a Master’s degree in 3D reservoir computer modelling in the field of hydrogeology. He was a trained professional who understood complex systems, identifying and addressing the core underlying problems. His approach to the presentation was solution-driven. He said that he was not the smartest person in the room and would not pretend to know everything. He hoped that there would be a respectful and productive dialogue.

He noted that the Committee had received the written submissions of Cape Forum which gave technical arguments, but that the presentation would take a different route. Cape Forum had more than a decade of experience in community work. The focus had been and still is on identifying problems and core issues and creating realistic practical solutions. It seemed like he was the first person to compliment the value of identifying some of the problems of education in the BELA Bill. The presentation would focus on some proposed solutions which may not be the correct remedies for the problems. The presentation consisted of ten points and concluding remarks.


In South Africa, roughly 250 000 people were trafficked per year. This was a concern for parents. This was a problem that had to be resolved. There was the problem of rising crime in South Africa and the lack of support for victims in such cases. Cape Forum was willing to give free online training to all teachers and personnel who were interested in education training courses on what teachers were allowed to do and who was responsible for the levels of safety. Cape Forum wanted to help create a solution and not just complain that the current board did not address any of these issues.


Local non-government organisations (NGOs) and communities provided training and gave materials, whether in the form of books or presentations. This was a billion-dollar industry where a lot of NGOs were funding schools. This was something that had to be considered. The BELA Bill took away many of the rights of individuals at school, such as the school governing body (SGB). Many of these NGOs' funding would dry up and they would not be able to provide support. The billion-dollar industry would then be something that the government would have to pick up otherwise a lot of schools would suffer due to the backlog.


There were accommodation issues at schools. This was something that the BELA Bill did not address.


The lack of electricity hindered more than merely teaching and learning. This was not to mention the unsafe conditions for educators. It was about marking papers at late hours and lighting for students during tests and examinations. NGOs were handing out rechargeable lamps to schools for children who wanted to study for their matric examinations. These concerns were not addressed practically in the BELA Bill.


There was a lack of reliable water that had led to sanitary and health concerns in schools. Students should have healthy living environments. Water could also be used for irrigation for gardens at schools that had feeding schemes.

Food security

A hungry child could not function as well as a well-fed child. There was a huge focus on food security. The Cape Forum was busy addressing this with other NGOs to create initiatives for food gardens like vegetables or fruits. This would help with a feeding scheme and ensure better nutrition at school. This would increase performance. This was not something that the BELA Bill addressed in a practical way.

Criminal law system

In Gugulethu last week, a 17-year-old girl named Ongeziwe Kamlana had been murdered. The safety at schools and what happened to individuals afterwards was something that was not approached or discussed at length in the current BELA Bill. Did teachers know and understand what their rights were? Were they able to train students on how to be safe in and around schools? Did teachers and personnel know the legal limit of what they could get involved in at school? The Cape Forum was willing to give free online training in this field. If there were interested teachers, they were welcome. This was another problem that was not addressed in the BELA Bill.


Education was seen as a holistic function in society. The BELA Bill addressed and identified problems in the education system. It was the solutions or remedies that Cape Forum did not agree with. For example, clause 2 dealt with compulsory grade R. Realistically, where would this money come from? This required more educators, schools, and transport. How would this logistically work? Was there a plan that had not been shared yet? The idea was noble, but Cape Forum did not see a practical way to achieve this. It would be a waste of money if it was implemented without a realistic plan.

On clause 4, if there were enough schools, government would not want to change the law to micro-control and micro-manage schools. It was not better to build more schools, and job creation and creating opportunities for learners who currently had to travel extremely far. On clause 5, regarding language, it was a well-established international and scientific fact that mother tongue education was the best way to educate young learners. So, Cape Forum could not agree with this clause from a scientific stance.

On clause 14, Cape Forum could not logistically believe that the government could control all material acquisitions of schools. No administrators could micro-manage to that degree. Imagine 100 schools calling tomorrow for new toasters. Was that something that the Minister or the Department of Basic Education should be busy with or was it something that the schools could solve on a local level within the national or local business forum? Local, smaller problems should be at the local level to achieve solutions much faster, more effectively and at no cost to government.

There were schools that lacked special needs and lack early childhood development facilities, like in Stellenbosch. This resulted in students not being ready for grade R. These were some of the examples that Cape Forum believed the BELA Bill did not address. School bags, posters, training, and working with local government were all things that could be solved at a local level without costing the state.


There should be a focus on schools. If schools were planning on being closed, would it not be better to upgrade some of these schools now rather than closing the schools again? NGOs were willing to assist at both the national and local levels in addressing these problems. Cape Forum wanted to find a working realistic, operative solution to these problems.


There was no realistic approach in the BELA Bill about healthcare at schools. How would the BELA Bill fix student and mental health at schools? Currently, there are no solutions in trying to address these issues realistically and practically.

Closing remarks

SGBs had assisted the state throughout the years and now a lot of administrative duties were being taken away with dealing with smaller local issues; for instance, buying a new toaster or microwave. All these things were locally controlled and helped save the government a lot of money. This school system had worked. The remedy would be to give and provide training to SGBs to have better administrative capabilities and to develop these skills on a local level. These may be used in the place of work or to acquire these skills through training. This may help them to start their own businesses because of what they have learned. This was a huge opportunity for government, education, and skills development. SGBs have been successful so far. A good teacher would be able to tell if a student was doing well. There may be a student who needs more time. These types of training and education were one of the main solutions. The largest positive impact on schools could be made on this level.

Many NGOs currently functioning in South Africa were involved in school programmes. How was the government planning on replacing this or trying to keep the status quo without letting education slip? How were the NGOs providing funding and training to schools being replaced? If the BELA Bill was hypothetically passed, with the exclusion of many of the NGOs, how would the government succeed? What was the plan? As far as language was concerned, it was relatively settled in eastern countries that had been colonised because they understood that young kids could quickly understand complex concepts in their language.

Many had seen in the media that Cape Forum said it would go to court if the BELA Bill were passed. There was no denying that. Yet, Cape Forum preferred a cooperative solution to these problems. It wants to work collectively to try and find solutions. There could be workshops to try and find solutions with other NGOs or institutions. It wanted to help the Committee to find solutions on the national and local levels. Many people had decided to support or to not support the BELA Bill, but he was not sure how much of an impact the public participation would have. If the BELA Bill were to be passed and all the correlating ideas that would be inferred by this law, traditional-rule voters would remember who told their sons to wear dresses to school and this would cause the breakdown of the traditional family, resulting in fewer marriages and also population decline.

The Chairperson thanked Cape Forum for reaching out when their names were not called on the first day of the public hearings on the BELA Bill. This showed Cape Forum’s commitment to the process and to the transformation of basic education in the country. He appreciated the offer by Cape Forum and noted that some people would accept that offer.

He noted that there were no clarity-seeking questions, but stated that the deliberations on the BELA Bill would be available in the public domain for all stakeholders and the public to follow along.

See attached for full submission

Consideration and adoption of the public participation report on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill

Dr Solomon Mthombeni, Committee Content Advisor, said he would go through a presentation to reduce the time. Thereafter, he would go over the report. He covered the contested clauses in the BELA Bill.

He commented that after receiving submissions and removing duplications, a total of 38 170 submissions were received. Some of the organisations made oral submissions last week. Out of the 54 clauses, 18 clauses had been highly contested. Overall, some of the submissions supported, partially supported, or outright rejected, the proposed amendments in their entirety. The support for the BELA Bill stemmed from enhancing organisational efficiency of the basic education system to improve school governance, leadership, and accountability, amongst other things.

The BELA Bill was partially supported because of compulsory learner attendance, and schools starting with grade R, as it would enhance early childhood development, and punishable offences for those that disrupted school activities. There had been rejections based on the definitions of corporal punishment, competent assessor, home education, and required documents. Those who objected to the BELA Bill outright did not state which clauses they objected to but highlighted things like the lack of trust. There was a feeling that the government was amending the BELA Bill to impose power over the parents and SGBs, which tampered with the Bill of Rights.

Submissions were received that included comments not directed at specific clauses, where some stated that the BELA Bill discriminated against religious communities. Some submissions had strongly opposed the planned covert and overt introduction of transgender ideologies, especially at the impressionable foundation phase. Several submissions had indicated that government should understand that it was not a Hitler-type organisation that could override the rights and freedom of the citizens and pummel them into submission by brutal methods and measures which did not befit a democracy.

Some of the challenges during the public participation process were that several submissions referred to the first version of the BELA Bill and not the ‘B-version’.

Dr Mthombeni then took the Committee through the Committee Report on the public participation process followed for the BELA bill. He commented that there were some grammatical issues which would be fixed.

The Chairperson said that Members did not have to worry about grammatical errors because they would be fixed. However, if Members felt that there was something that was not written properly, it could be raised. He thanked Dr Mthombeni for the summary and asked if Members had any questions or amendments.

The Committee had no clarity-seeking questions or amendments.

The report was adopted.

Consideration and adoption of previous minutes of meetings

The Committee adopted the minutes of 28 February, 06 March, 07 March, and 08 March 2024.

The meeting was adjourned.

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: