DA plans to shelve Bela Bill slated as ‘anti-transformative’

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube takes over as Minister of Basic Education. File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

DA MP Siviwe Gwarube takes over as Minister of Basic Education. File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 2, 2024


Cape Town - Plans to shelve the anticipated Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela Bill) as DA MP Siviwe Gwarube takes over as Minister of Basic Education have been described as an “anti-transformative” move that would need the backing of other parties in the government of national unity (GNU).

This comes as the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), representing 275 000 members as the largest teachers’ union in country, also rejected Gwarube’s appointment, saying it is disappointed in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s selection.

Passed by the National Assembly and awaiting the president’s assent, the bill seeks to, among others, strengthen the Department of Education’s oversight over language and admission policies that school governing bodies (SGBs) are mandated to develop; and include Grade R in compulsory basic education.

While Gwarube did not reply to queries on Monday, DA Federal Council chairperson Helen Zille said in an interview with that the DA made it clear from the beginning that the Bela Bill was a “red line” for the party.

Zille said there was no agreement that the bill would be implemented in its current form.

“The Bela Bill is a non-negotiable for us. The right of school governing bodies to determine the language policy of the school is a red-line for us and the ANC’s been aware of that from day one,” said Zille.

Sadtu general-secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the DA planned to run a parallel government that was anti-transformative.

“We are happy that she came clear so that people can understand that we are having a minister who is against transformation and they use language as a tool of racism to deny learners an education right,” Maluleke said.

Gwarube was appointed the Basic Education Minister on Sunday night, taking over from Angie Motshekga, who has since been deployed as Minister of Defense and Military Veterans.

ANC leader of the opposition in the Western Cape Legislature, Khalid Sayed, said the assertion from the DA is not in line with the spirit of the GNU framework of intent.

“The Bela Bill has already passed through the Parliamentary process.

“The DA will need to raise their concerns with the support of various other partners within the GNU,” said Sayed.

Maluleke said the DA’s approach to education was to refuse to acknowledge the role of colonial and apartheid education systems.

He said Ramaphosa made his decision aware of the strained relations between Sadtu and the DA.

“Our interest is to see social justice, equitable, equal and quality public education for all educators to have their academic and professional freedom respected and their labour rights protected as workers.

“Therefore, no amount of persuasion can convince Sadtu that the DA accepted the position in order to ensure quality and equitable education. Their motive is to weaken the unions, in particular Sadtu,” Maluleke said.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke. Picture: Nicholas Thabo Tau/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa) executive director, Basil Manuel, said they are not interested in what political party Gwarube is from (Gwarube), only that she performs.

“We are not politically motivated; whether she is from DA or PA, it doesn't matter to us as the organisation. What matters is being able to do the job.

“Second, not only must the person be able to do the job, but the person must have bought into the whole philosophy of South Africa first, and we are not here doing the job for the DA or the ANC; we are doing the job for the country.

“If that’s the philosophy that the person bought into, we will work with that person and we are going to give her a chance and hopefully we will meet with her and put our concerns on the table,” Manuel said.

Meanwhile, ActionSA parliamentary caucus leader Athol Trollip said they also rejected the Bela Bill.

“ActionSA rejects the flawed Bela Bill fundamentally, because it presents a series of amendments that seek to camouflage the structural failures within our education system by introducing cosmetic changes that will not achieve the necessary interventions to overcome the fact that nearly 80% of all schools are characterised as dysfunctional,” Trollip said.

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