The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has resolved to extend the public hearings on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill for two weeks until February 29.
The Western Cape had requested the public hearings be extended by a month.
Instead, the NCOP’s select committee on education and technology, sports, arts and culture wants public hearings to be concluded by February 29, and the bill to be finalised by April 17.
It has lined up 26 organisations and three members of the public for oral submissions in March.
Committee chairperson Elleck Nchabeleng said the Western Cape had proposed that the bill be processed until the end of April despite a week-long extension being granted in January.
“The request of the Western Cape is granted but it will be only for two weeks rather than the month they wanted. This extension is not only to Western Cape,” Nchabeleng said, adding that if other provinces wished to continue with public hearings, they could do so.
DA MP Delmaine Christians said the Western Cape foresaw problems with the time-frame set for processing of the bill.
“It would be unfair to the public if they don’t all get sufficient time to acknowledge, speak to it and raise their concerns,” Christians said.
“We need an extension for the Western Cape and Northern Cape.
We should reconsider and give them a month extension so we can do due diligence on the bill.”
But ANC MPs insisted that only a two-week extension be granted. ANC MP Ethel Nkosi said the bill was presented on time to the NCOP last year.
“I don’t think we will be able to extend it by more than two weeks. Our term ends this year and we don’t know when the election will be. Before the end of term, we must make sure the bill is passed. Those who are behind should speed up the process.”
Christians said the Western Cape’s concern was that the Department of Basic Education did not present the bill clause by clause.
“They have asked the department to come back and do the presentation correctly.”
She also said the NCOP should not rush the bill just because the parliamentary term was coming to an end.
“We will do a disservice to the Department of Basic Education, the public and schools in our country. This bill and any other bill has to be done in-depth until provinces are satisfied.
“There are 12 public hearings the Western Cape has to do. We have to do justice to the bill and give the public a fair chance to come and present their concerns about the bill.”
Nchabeleng said a one-week extension was previously granted to all provinces because the committee valued public participation.
“We can’t withhold this thing because Western Cape did not go on public hearings when everyone else was going on that in November.”
He added that the bill was not a provincial legislation and that the province was to blame for not prioritising the bill in November.
“The province can’t hold the whole of South Africa at ransom.” ANC MP Itumeleng Ntsube said there was a tendency from the Western Cape to ask for extensions whenever they were concluding bills.