Lessons from public hearings in the Western Cape
Today, on the 21st of August 2018, I attended the public hearings
about the Western Cape Provincial School Education Amendment Bill,
with the purpose to learn how these hearings work, so that the
homeschooling movement in South Africa can prepare for the moment
when there will be public hearing on the Basic Education Law
Amendment (BELA) Bill.
When we arrived at the building, there was a group of teacher
union members toy-toying in front of the building. We had to enter
the building with them, which caused us to be slightly late. It
was however in a festive spirit and they made us feel like
comrades. After going through security we were lead to the 7th
floor where the chambers of the provincial legislature is.
Although security did not allow attendees to bring in posters,
some still managed to smuggle in a few.
Attendees were first allowed to raise points of order. There was
one person that strongly objected to the fact that the public
hearings were held during Muslim religious days, and this
objection was noted.
The hearing then continued with senior officials from the Western
Cape Education Department providing an overview of the legislative
changes. With little passion, various head of departments
discussed various parts of the act.
After the overview, objectors were provided the opportunity to
present their oral testimonies. All testimonies were done by
organizations such as ANC, SACP, Equal Education etc. Nobody spoke
in an individual capacity.
The lines of arguments that were followed by the various speakers
were as followed:
- The legislative changes are in conflict with other
legislation. For example, it was highlighted several times that
this provincial legislation is in conflict with national
- The legislative changes will have negative effects on
individuals and communities.
- Some testimonies were mere political rhetoric with sweeping
ideological statements (about colonialism, leafy suburbs,
racism) , threats and personal attacks against Helen Zille and
Debbie Schaefer. Statements like : "We are telling them to go to
hell." This speech received a lot of support from the audience,
but also a lot of laughter.
- The legislative changes do not address issues that are more
important, such as safety.
- The legislative changes are based on flawed assumptions.
- There is no research that provides evidence that the
legislative changes will have the intended effect.
- There is already existing legislation that adequately
addresses the issues that the legislative changes claims to
- The legislative changes will cost a lot of money with no
proven benefits to justify the costs. There is no room in the
already constrained budget for these additional costs.
- The legislative changes are vague and will give the minister a
lot of discretion without the possibility to be held
- No alternative solutions were proposed. All parties proposed
that the law is scrapped.
- The legislative changes will only benefit the rich and not the
- The drafting of the bill was done in a way that was not
transparent and accountable.
- The bill is not worth the paper it is written on, but has cost
a lot of money to compile. The costs of expensive consultants to
compile the bill and the time of officials that assisted.
- There is no demand for the legislative changes from the
- The legislator attempts to fix things that are not broken.
- After the objectors finished their testimonies, members of the
committee were allowed to speak. One member proposed that the
committee takes the position that the bill is rejected. Another
committee member proposed that this proposal cannot be
considered until the process was completed. A third committee
member described the drafting of the bill as a waste of money. A
fourth committee member also proposes to reject the bill. Not
one committee member spoke in favor of the bill.
The chairman closed the meeting by wishing the muslims in the
meeting a blessed Eid.
Submissions can be made on behalf of an organization or as an
individual. In the opening of their testimony, organizations must
introduce themselves and show who they represent and how big their
support is. When the homeschooling movement makes submissions,
there is no reason why a large number of homeschooling parents
cannot make testimonies in their individual capacities.
Parties can hand in a written submission or / and request an
opportunity to make an oral presentation. When making an oral
testimony, there is no opportunity to display a PowerPoint
presentation together with oral presentation. The power of your
testimony will depend on your words only.
Some tips about attending the hearings and presenting oral
- Come early, because there might be unions or political parties
that picket in front of the building and make it difficult to
get into the chamber on time. If you are early, you can also
choose a seat in the room where you can have eye contact with
the committee members that must listen to the presentation.
- Do not forget to take proof of ID with you. This might be
required by security.
- Prepare a speech that can effectively convey your most
important points in 10 minutes. The homeschool movement can
create opportunities for people that are going to make oral
presentations to practice their presentation in front of an
audience before the hearings.
- If the homeschool movement wants to convey multiple points,
they should make multiple submissions that focus on the
different points. Certain points can be conveyed by
organizations and others by homeschooling parents in their
- The oral presentation will probably be done while seated and
speaking through a microphone , and you might not have eye
contact with your audience. Make sure that you sit close to the
microphone, so that you can be heard. Multiple points can also
be made by making some points at one hearing and other points at
- The audience can show support for the speakers by applauding.
It would therefore be good to pack the chamber with
homeschoolers when the BELA Bill is discussed.
- It was clear that some speakers targeted their speech at the
committee with strong arguments showing the flaws in the bill.
Other speakers targeted the audience to get an applause from the
audience, to show that their arguments have public support. When
homeschoolers present at hearings, it is important to do both.
There must be a lot of homeschoolers in the audience to applaud
those speakers that target the audience. This has an important
effect on the committee as well.