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AfriForum asks for immediate withdrawal of BELA Bill in light of Lesufi’s latest remarks

Following on the comments submitted by AfriForum on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (also known as the BELA Bill), the civil rights organisation is asking the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to withdraw the bill as soon as possible. This is in reaction to the latest remarks by Gauteng’s MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi. During a session of the Gauteng legislature yesterday, he allegedly made it clear that the bill is not aimed at improving education, but rather serves as a key to the final termination of Afrikaans schools.

In AfriForum’s comments on the BELA Bill, it is emphasised that some of the proposed amendments, especially those that have to do with decision-making powers regarding schools’ admissions and language policies, are unconstitutional and threaten Afrikaans mother-language education. It also states that if these amendments were to be implemented, it would amount to an irreparable, unilateral and permanent violation of the 1994 constitutional settlement by the ANC government.

Currently, the decision-making powers in this regard rest with the democratically elected school governing bodies. The Constitutional Court has emphasised in several rulings that this is in line with the provisions of the Constitution and therefore is the best way in which these policies can be established. However, the BELA Bill proposes that the final decision about these policies should rest with the heads of provincial education departments.

According to a media statement of the Freedom Front Plus, issued yesterday after the session of the Gauteng legislature, Lesufi stated that once implemented, he would use the BELA Bill to transform all single- and parallel-medium Afrikaans schools into schools where at least three different languages will be used simultaneously as mediums of instruction.

Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, says that international research has proven beyond any doubt that dual- and parallel-medium educational institutions eventually turn into monolingual institutions where the strongest language (English in the case of South Africa) prevails. “This fact has also been proven by the language transformation processes followed by the public universities in South Africa. Lesufi now wants to complete the same process with schools and he uses the race card in an effort to disguise his hatred for the Afrikaans community. For the sake of convenience, he ignores the fact that Afrikaans is the mother language of people of all races,” she adds.

Bailey underlines that legislation cannot be created to legalise politicians’ vendettas against communities in the country. “Not only will it cost the state and taxpayers dearly when such legislation is opposed in courts, but an even more expensive price will be paid by the youth if schools are subjected to this ideological power game. In light of the question marks about the real intentions with the BELA Bill, as well as the huge reaction to the recent written public comment process, AfriForum therefore urgently appeals to the Minister to repeal the BELA Bill,” concludes Bailey.

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