Numerous organizations and political parties plan to oppose the controversial Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela) all the way to the highest court after it is one step closer to becoming law.
“The ANC government must brace itself, because diverse communities are now truly standing together for the first time and will not allow the offending Bela legislation to be turned into a Bela disaster.”
This is what the civil rights organization Cape Forum said after the Bela bill was accepted on Thursday by 223 votes to 83 in the National Assembly (NA).
Among other things, the Bela Act aims to strip governing bodies of their decision-making right on language and admissions policy and to transfer that right to government officials.
Cape Forum together with AfriForum, Solidarity, Solidarity Helping Hand and Fedsas, as well as various political parties, including the FF Plus, DA and ACDP, protested at the parliament against the Bela law.
According to Cape Forum, this unity is the secret weapon for which the ANC government has not prepared. “Different organizations with diverse support bases have today shown that they stand united in the fight against the Bela Act. If this bill is finally passed, it will seriously harm the future of all children – regardless of their parents’ political affiliation or preferences. This will leave us with a disaster in education that will cause indelible damage,” explains Bernard Pieters, manager of community activation at Cape Forum. He emphasizes that in the meantime this organization will consult with its legal team about the next step to ensure that the bill is stopped in its tracks.
The DA said it will not only prepare its own legal action against the Bela Act, but also reach out to other organizations with a view to combining all the various legal actions into the biggest education court case South Africa has ever seen.
Baxolile Nodada, DA MP and the party’s spokesperson on education, said the party would soon send formal letters to all organizations that intend to challenge the Bela bill in court, inviting them to pool resources and work together to mount the strongest possible court challenge.
“In this way, by uniting the voices of school governing bodies, civil society and opposition parties in one consolidated court action against the ANC’s hijacking of schools, we will defeat the Bela bill. Forming a united front against the ANC’s plans to hijack and collapse our schools has never been more urgent.”
The civil rights organization AfriForum also said earlier that it was continuing preparations for litigation after the Bela bill was accepted by the NV.
According to AfriForum, it is clearer than ever that the ANC government is trying to steamroll this bill through all processes.
According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s head of cultural affairs, AfriForum views the bill as a direct attack against Afrikaans education, which will have extremely negative consequences for quality‑education in Afrikaans single medium in particular‑, but ultimately also all South African schools.
The way in which the government abuses its power to try to hijack Afrikaans schools cannot be tolerated, Solidarity said, adding that it intends to take legal action to stop the implementation of the law.
According to Solidarity, the Bela law poses a serious threat to Afrikaans and mother tongue education.
“The next step to get the legislation approved is the debate and vote in the National Council of Provinces. If the government is going to allow its political ideology to prevail here as well, and the law is subsequently ratified by the president, Solidarity is already ready for action. We will not hesitate to fight the hijacking of our schools all the way to the highest court,” said Johan Botha, deputy general secretary of Solidarity.