Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Image: GCIS/Flickr

‘A watershed moment’: Motshekga says as Parliament passes BELA Bill

Despite heavy criticism and court action, the National Assembly has passed the BELA Bill. Here’s what you need to know.


Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Image: GCIS/Flickr

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says the National Assembly’s passing of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill on Thursday, May 13, is a watershed moment for the sector. 

A total of 223 Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Bill, while 78 voted against it. President Cyril Ramaphosa will now have to sign it into law.


The Bill has 56 clauses ranging from the introduction of Grade R to learner attendance, Code of Conduct for learners, home education, rationalisation of schools, abolishment of corporal punishment and initiations, language policy, admission policy, criminalisation of disruptions not school.

The Bill also seeks to have all home education children registered.

One of the amendments included in the BELA Bill is that a Head of Department (HoD) may direct a public school to adopt more than one language of instruction where it is practicable. If the HoD issues such a directive, it must take all necessary steps to ensure that the public school receives the resources required to provide adequate learning and education in the additional language of instruction.

Civil society organisation AfriForum and the Democratic Alliance (DA) have criticised the Bill, saying it is a direct attack on the Afrikaans mother-language education

DA federal chair Helen Zille led the party to then Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi’s office to demand he retracts support of the BELA Bill. Image: Democratic Alliance


On Thursday, Motshekga said extensive consultations over several years have shaped the current version of the BELA Bill.

The minister said in its development phase, the Bill saw the submission of almost 5,000 comments from the public, alongside 144 petitions with a collective weight of 195,695 names. 

She said, “Such engagement underscores the deep-rooted public interest in and commitment to refining our basic education system.” 

In addition, Motshekga said the BELA Bill addresses critical challenges that have hindered the progress of the country’s education ecosystem for years. 

“One of the primary issues it tackles is determining a school’s language policy. There’s a common misconception that the Bill aims to erode the autonomy of School Governing Bodies (SGBs). This is false. 

“In reality, it aspires to harmonise the SGB’s powers with the directives of the relevant provincial head of department (HOD). While the SGB is initially tasked with setting a school’s language policy, the Bill emphasises that this authority is not unequivocal. It ascertains that such policies are adaptable, inclusive, and congruent with the constitutional right to basic education. The Bill aims to guarantee that their constitutional right to education remains intact,” she explained.