Basic Education Laws (BELA) Amendment Bill: Negotiating Mandate

Education (WCPP)

27 March 2024
Chairperson: Ms D Baartman (DA)
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Meeting Summary


The Committee considered its negotiating mandate on the Basic Education Laws (BELA) Amendment Bill. It mandated the Western Cape’s delegation in the NCOP, the authority to not support the Bill.

The mandate raised serious concern that insufficient time was provided for the legislative process and that the Committee on Education has repeatedly communicated its programme to the NCOP on multiple occasions.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s introductory remarks

The Chairperson said the meeting emanates from the previous day’s meeting regarding the negotiating mandate. The Committee made some resolutions. Despite its public participation process not concluding, despite the Committee still going through submissions and not receiving feedback on its correspondence regarding an extension, the Committee is forced to submit its negotiating mandate under duress.  The Committee has been thinking through its options, procedurally and legally in this unprecedented situation.

Draft Committee Report: Negotiating Mandate

The Chairperson took Members through the content. The report contained concerns raised for the attention of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Adv Romeo Maasdorp, WCPP Legal Advisor, informed Members that the cover letter contained the issues discussed in yesterday's meeting.

It was confirmed by the Committee Secretary that the Committee did not receive a response to the correspondence sent to the NCOP yesterday.

Members went through the cover letter. The Chairperson read it into the record: “As you may be aware, the WCPP Standing Committee on Education has repeatedly communicated its programme to the NCOP Chairperson, dated 26 Jan 2024, 8 Feb 2024, 18 March 2024, 20 March 2024 and 26 March 2024. That notwithstanding, the Committee has not received any feedback on these letters. To date, the Committee has held six public hearings garnering attendance numbers of over 2 700 persons and continues to receive submissions on the BELA Bill totalling over 5 200 submissions to date. In fact, the Committee anticipates receiving more submissions during planned public hearings to be held shortly in Cape Town.  Further, the Committee records receipt of correspondence from your office dated 25 March, presumably in response to the WCPP letter dated 20 March, but it is respectfully observed that this response does not at all address the pertinent and substantive concerns raised in the WCPP correspondence. On the contrary, this response from your office merely restates the NCOP programme pertaining to all the current bills before the provinces. This response is similarly silent on the WCPP’s well-articulated concerns in respect of the stringent timelines and the impact thereof on the integrity of our law-making process. It is regrettable that your correspondence does not even address the WCPP request for an extension of time, nor does it provide any reason or legal justification for the refusal or dismissal of the WCPP request in the above circumstances and previous correspondence. Kindly advise what is your response 1) the WCPP request to extend the timeline for submission of the negotiating mandate 2) mindful that the WCPP has planned another two public hearings on the BELA Bill mindful of the extended public interest in the Bill and mindful that public hearing in the Cape Metro are very well attended and mindful further that our negotiating mandate will have to be submitted on 27 March as per the timelines 3) it follows that the negotiating mandate will therefore not include the views and submissions of our biggest constituency 4) the WCPP therefore inquires as to what the NCOP’s response is in respect of the nature, quality and integrity of our incomplete negotiating mandate in those circumstances 5) further and in view  of our negotiating mandate being incomplete in the absence of the views and submissions from our public hearing of 4 April, will the NCOP still consider out public involvement process as having been substantially meaningful 6) in addition and in view of the NCOP’s deadline for submission of the negotiating mandate being 27 March, would our committee, once it’s held its public hearing on 4 April, be allowed to augment or supplement its negotiating mandate with submissions received during that public hearing 7) alternatively, the WCPP inquires, once it has submitted its incomplete negotiating mandate on 27 March, whether once it has held its two remaining public hearings, it will allow its incomplete negotiating mandate and substitute same with a new and complete negotiating mandate. Further, the WCPP observes there are around 13 business days / 3 calendar weeks from 27 March for the negotiating mandate and 17 April, for the final mandates. While the WCPP appreciates the need for timelines in order to ensure an efficient and expeditious law-making process, the WCPP inquires about the legal status of its negotiating mandate should it submit the same after the scheduled date of 27 March but before 17 April. In other words, would the WCPP negotiating mandate still be considered or factored into the general matrix of mandates from all of the other provinces?

The cover letter contained a SharePoint link to all the submissions due to the insufficient time afforded to the WCPP to conclude its public participation process and deliberations on the Bill. The WCPP requested that it be considered, deliberated on and responded to individually and forms part of the WCPP negotiating mandate.

In view of the extensive interest that the BELA Bill generated, the WCPP trusts that the NCOP appreciates and shares its commitment to a meaningful law-making process with ample time afforded to citizens to express their sentiments. The Committee looks forward to the NCOP’s considered response.”

Mr C Fry (DA) was pleased with the cover letter, which clearly outlines the Western Cape’s prayer.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) said the letter was well-drafted and outlined all the main points. He suggested putting a deadline for the NCOP to respond.  

The Committee Procedural Officer said this could be done, but members should be mindful of the public hearing scheduled for April 4, the logistical arrangements, and the many public holidays coming up.

The Chairperson suggested the end of business today.

Adv Maasdorp agreed that this was fair and reasonable. The issues raised in the cover letter are not dramatically in-depth but are issues raised with the NCOP in previous correspondence, so they should be familiar with the concerns. If the Committee could draft the negotiating mandate and cover letter in one day, he was convinced the NCOP would have the capacity to consult, engage, and craft a response to this letter by the close of business today.

Regarding the public hearing scheduled for 4 April, noting it was important to hear from the people of the Western Cape, Mr Christians questioned the status of the hearing and whether it would have an impact on the Bill itself, dependent on whether the NCOP did not grant the WCPP an extension. Today (27 March) was the last day for the NCOP to consider the views of the provinces. Will the contributions of 4 April be meaningfully considered?

The Chairperson said the Committee did not know – it depends on the NCOP’s developments today.

Mr Ben Daza, Senior Procedural Advisor, said that legally, the province was required to give all submissions on the Bill to the NCOP, so he advised the Committee to submit all submissions to the NCOP. Even after 4 April, it will be up to the NCOP to decide what to do with these submissions.

The Chairperson said the Committee will uphold its promise to the Western Cape to hear their views on 4 April.

Mr Christians said the Committee must push for the NCOP to consider the submissions of 4 April. It is a very important bill, and the people of the Western Cape were unhappy, but they should be heard.

The Chairperson agreed and said the Committee would fight for the people of the Western Cape and for them to be heard democratically.

(Negotiating mandate stage) Report of the Standing Committee on Education on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill [B2B-2022] (NCOP)

The Standing Committee on Education, having considered the subject of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill [B2B-2022] (NCOP) referred to it in terms of Standing Rule 217, confers on the Western Cape’s delegation in the NCOP, the authority to not support the Bill.

In accordance with Standing Rule 90, the African National Congress expressed its Minority View to support the Bill.

The Western Cape Provincial Parliament Standing Committee on Education formally requests that the National Council of Provinces note the following – see attached

The Chairperson asked whether Members were in agreement with the proviso, which read: The Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Education does not believe enough public participation has been garnered to meaningfully consider clauses 1 to 54 due to insufficient time and under duress we provisionally do not support this, Bill.

Mr Fry and Mr Christians agreed.

The Chairperson put the Bill in its entirety before the Committee.

Mr Fry proposed that the Committee not support the Bill.

Mr C Poole (DA) seconded the proposal.

Mr K Sayed (ANC) supported the bill from the minority's point of view.

For the record, the Chairperson said she also provisionally objected to the Bill. 

Mr Christians moved to adopt the Committee report on the negotiating mandate.

Mr Poole seconded.

The Chairperson appreciated the staff for assisting the Committee with “historical and unchartered waters”.

The meeting was adjourned.


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