Setting the record straight on BELA Bill – DBE

Minister supports ZERO tolerance against alcohol at schools, but alcohol is sometimes used and sold legitimately on premises

Basic Education on misrepresentation of the amendments to the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill

15 December 2021

The Department of Basic Education wishes to correct the misrepresentation and the apparent misreading of certain aspects of the amendments to the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill of 2021.

Some media have created an impression that is clearly against the spirit and true intention of the clause in the amendments. As a result of the misinterpretation in the news articles some members of the community are raising concerns. This is unfortunate and disappointing especially because the reporting is inaccurate or misses the point and renders the article sensational.

Minister Motshekga supports ZERO tolerance against alcohol at schools. However it cannot be denied that some schools do sell alcohol during certain fund raising activities and that alcohol is sometimes possessed and consumed when the school may hire out the school hall for church services or weddings. It is for these purposes that Minister is seeking to regulate the possession, consumption and sale of alcohol at schools.

It must be noted also that the process to amend the Basic Education Laws started in 2013 and countless consultation sessions have taken place with all stakeholders at every stage and each phase of the amendments. The Bill published by Minister Angie Motshekga in a Government Gazette a week ago is an outcome of many years of deliberations including a public participation process.

Here are the facts:

Clause 8 which is an Amendment of Section 8A of the South African Schools Act makes it clear at paragraph (b) that ‘No person may bring liquor onto public school premises, or have liquor in his or her possession, or consume or sell liquor on public school premises, or during any public school activity”. 
The amendments seeks to extend the provisions of the Schools Act by providing for conditions under  which liquor may be possessed, consumed or sold on school promises or during school activities, and to make consequential amendments to that section.
The amendment makes provision for certain exceptions to the prohibition to allow the School Governing Body, on application from any person and in consultation with the Head of Department, to permit the possession, consumption or sale of liquor in certain cases, on certain conditions and subject to certain restrictions’.

Paragraph (d) specifies the exceptions for the possession, consumption and sale of alcohol and provides that:

The permission contemplated in paragraph (c) relates to—

(i)    Fund-raising activities of the school by the governing body;
(ii)    The letting of the school's premises to members of the community for private functions, church services and the like, in order to augment the school fund;
(iii)    Functions held for the staff of the school; and
(iv)    Instances where staff members live on school premises in living quarters provided by the school: Provided that the governing body of the public school, in consultation with the Head of Department, may attach to the possession and consumption of liquor in the living quarters of staff members, such restrictions over and above those contemplated in paragraph (c).

In other words the amendment seeks to regulate those schools that have a a hall, for example that they hire out for functions such as weddings, meetings and other types of functions will be allowed to serve alcohol to adult guests, not to learners. The regulations are clear that no learners would be allowed to buy, sell or drink alcohol and there will not be drinking in the presence of learners.

The current practice is that those hiring out school facilities for such functions have to apply for permission to serve alcohol from the Provincial Head of Department who in most instances grants that permission. The request from schools and SGB’s is that because it has not been properly regulated resulting in uneven applications, there is a need to regulate and manage it properly with the involvement of the SGB.

It is mischievous to say schools will sell liquor because it is those guests who would have hired those venues, who would be allowed to serve liquor to their adult guests and this would not involve schools selling per se.

Minister Motshekga has urged South Africans to read and understand the Amendment Bill in context, and not trust the misleading and false interpretation currently peddled by certain media.

Issued by Department of Basic Education, 15 December 2021