ANC members urged to hold leaders accountable for implementing legislation endangering education system

Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Photographer: Armand Hough. African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 15, 2024


Civil society groups have called on South Africans and ANC members to call their leaders to order and hold them accountable for implementing legislation which represents an attack on the constitutional rights and democratic freedoms of everyone in the country.

Much like the highly contested National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, a number of organisations have stood up to decry the decision by the ANC to continue with implementing the Basic Education Acts Amendment (Bela) Bill.

Cape Forum’s Head of Community Activation, Bernard Pieters, said the Education Amendment Act, which was recently proposed by the ANC and passed by the National Council of Provinces, was a piece of “draconian” legislation which not only attacked the constitutional rights of every South African but also had a direct effect on the growing sentiment for greater autonomy for the Cape.

According to Pieters, as it stood, a preliminary report accepted in Parliament by the portfolio committee on basic education had shown that a staggering 78% of participants in the Western Cape rejected the bill.

He said the reason for this was due to the concerns by some that the bill was attempting to create a solution without solving any core of the problems within the country’s education system, and instead sought to take power away from school communities and move it to politicians.

“Schools will be nothing but political assets. School communities, where parents are truly involved and where parental governing bodies function efficiently and optimally, will be hit hardest by the intended law.”

If anything, through the legislation, Pieters said, the government would be able to directly control schools and school governing bodies and therefore determine the agendas, effectively taking away from the core principles enshrined in South Africa’s Constitution.

“The government is currently trying to repackage a dysfunctional system by taking further power away from local communities. Centralisation has so far no success stories in the current government and it would be better to stop the process now and identify the problems rather than trying to treat the symptoms with radical ‘solutions’.

“This represents a disturbing deterioration of human rights in a nation that is meant to be a regional leader and a celebrated democracy. With this legislation, as with the NHRI Bill, the government is trying to strengthen its grip on public and private institutions by forcing through this draconian legislation before an election, an election that the ANC is likely to lose, they are in fact fuelling the spirit of greater autonomy,” Pieters said.

According to the government, the Bela Bill aims to amend certain sections of the South African Schools Act, focusing specifically on the administrative and management processes at the school level.

Some of the key provisions which have resulted in the growing outcry over its implementation include making Grade R compulsory, revising admission and language policies, addressing school disruptions, regulating home schooling, and strengthening governance accountability.

In March, ActionSA’s Western Cape premier candidate Angela Sobey said the party also objected to the bill as they believed it was a flawed legislative attempt to camouflage the structural deficiencies of South Africa’s education system, resulting from decades of systemic mismanagement by the governing party.

“The bill will only serve to compound the challenges by introducing a series of proposals that lack coherence and fail to align with the actual needs and realities of our education landscape. The Bela Bill will not make the necessary inroads to improve the dysfunction within our education system, which has left nearly 80% of all schools characterised as dysfunctional.

“Action SA contends that the Bela Bill is a power grab by the Department of Basic Education Minister masked as a legitimate legislative effort; the consequence of which will dramatically limit the role of parents, and particularly School Governing Bodies (SGB) in our education system,” Sobey said.