FEDSAS requests urgent assurances on BELAB from Parliamentary Portfolio Committee: ‘Prove that all public comments were considered, or fix it immediately’

19/08/2023 - Fedsas

According to several reports, between 6000 and 9000 public presentations and comments on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELAB) were not analysed or considered by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. 

 “This would amount to shocking political abuse of power and the trampling of any claim of democratic civic participation,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS). For more than six years, FEDSAS was continuously involved in this process. The organisation has made its internationally acknowledged education law expertise available to role-players to see to it that the amendments are to the advantage of education in South Africa.

“It is extremely concerning that public participation, an integral part of South Africa’s constitutional democracy, appears to have been manipulated to push through BELAB without addressing serious shortcomings.”

Deacon says FEDSAS wrote an urgent letter to the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Ms Bongiwe Pricilla Mbinqo-Gigaba, in which FEDSAS demanded a number of assurances from the committee.

""Firstly, we want the committee’s assurance that all comments and submissions were processed and presented to the committee. We request a comprehensive report that accurately reflects the diverse range of public opinions and concerns expressed. This report should be presented to the National Assembly for consideration.”

Deacon says FEDSAS also asks that, should the allegations be true that not all comments were considered, the Portfolio Committee at once rectifies this oversight. 

“Should the committee choose not to provide these assurances, we request that the committee explains to FEDSAS and the public why all public comments were not considered. Transparency is a crucial aspect of democratic governance,” says Deacon.

 Although FEDSAS’s contributions to BELAB were positive and constructive throughout, litigation is never excluded as recourse. “FEDSAS is committed to upholding the principles of our democracy as contained in the Constitution. Should it become clear that these principles were not only disregarded but actively undermined, FEDSAS will not hesitate to take legal action.”

FEDSAS has spent many hours and made use of the organisation’s experience of education at ground level to make several submissions about and comments on aspects of BELAB. “We didn’t only highlight concerns; we went as far as making alternative suggestions, based on research and expertise, to improve certain aspects. Similarly, thousands of other submissions from other role-players were made. If it now becomes clear that these public submissions were simply trashed it would be a sad day for the democratic process in our country and the President will have to act.”

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