Opposition parties walked out of the meeting of the basic education portfolio committee on Tuesday that was meant to deliberate on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill.
The walkout by the DA and ACDP left the committee without a quorum and forced an adjournment. The meeting was also to consider and adopt the draft report on the public hearings, receive a presentation from the department on the financial implications of the bill and start clause-by-clause deliberations.
Committee chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba expressed her disappointment at the walkout by DA MPs Baxolile Nodada and Marina van Zyl as well as the ACDP’s Marie Sukers.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said the walkout was expected.
“We noted the behaviour already during the public hearings in provinces and the misinformation that was spread. We noted the comments in our last meeting regarding the draft report on the countrywide hearings,” she said.
“The majority of members present today indicated that the draft report was a fair reflection of what occurred in the public hearings across the country. That is also why we were able to adopt the report,” the chairperson said.
Nodada said they walked out because Mbinqo-Gigaba refused to allow clarity-seeking questions and forced the adoption of the draft consolidated Bela Bill national report.
He said his party asked a number of questions regarding the report.
“We still do not know if the total number of submissions received were 32 941 or 34 509.
“We’ve sought clarity on how it was decided which written submissions would be analysed as all of the hand-delivered submissions seem to have been analysed, but only a portion of the email submissions (6 715 of 17 452) were analysed,” he said.
Nodada also said they had yet to receive the matrix analysis of submissions of each clause of the bill.
“The requested reports from Parliamentary Legal Services and National Treasury were also not forthcoming,” he said, adding that the committee proceeded with a presentation from the department on the bill’s financial implications.
“The DA will not allow submissions from the public to be minimised or discarded. There seems to be an attempt to skew perception that the public supports the Bela Bill when all the data has yet to be analysed.”
He stated that the bill in its current form would disempower communities and schools from making decisions on their admission and language policies.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said the walkout happened after the adoption of the report and before the deliberations on the bill could begin.
“It is concerning. As Members of Parliament and public representatives, we can differ with each other,” she said. “It is how we express that difference that is worrying. Members have all the right to raise objections and have it included in reports.”
Mbinqo-Gigaba said the walkout was just another attempt by the opposition to stall the bill.
“We will, however, not be deterred and will continue tomorrow with our work,” she said, adding that the deliberations would resume on Wednesday.