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Outcry, anger after Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann fired by the WCED

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Heathfield High School. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Published Oct 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Activists, parents and learners have once again come out to voice their support for Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann, who has been dismissed from his job with immediate effect.

Neumann, who came to the defence of his pupils and staff during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was found guilty by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on six charges at the end of his disciplinary hearing.

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The community held a briefing in support of Neumann at the school hall yesterday. Heathfield High’s school governing body (SGB) chairperson, Vasoula Bailey, said they were very angry about the sanction.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the presiding officer found that dismissal would be the only reasonable and appropriate sanction after a review of all the charges cumulatively and with the relevant authority regarding the step.

Hammond said the employee has been informed of his right to appeal the sanction in terms of section 9 of schedule 2 of the Act. That, however, must be done within five working days after having received the sanction.

Neumann said he was extremely disappointed by the outcomes, though it was expected. He said he did not regret his actions, because he believed he acted in the best interest of the school, learners and the community.

Neumann said they would take the matter to the higher authority for review, and that they were still working on the strategy on how to go about it.

Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High School, has been under fire for his policies on student attendance during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

His attorney, Vernon Seymour, said when the WCED-appointed disciplinary counsel chairperson refused to open the hearing to the media and the public, he knew dismissal was a foregone conclusion.

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Seymour said there were also other signs during the hearing that clearly indicated that it was no ordinary hearing. "It was designed to achieve a predetermined outcome."

Hammond said the claims that the case was not a “fair process” was part of an ongoing campaign to discredit what was a fair process – whereby the employee was given a fair opportunity to represent his case.

ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said the ANC was disgusted, but not surprised at the dismissal of the "young and dedicated" principal.

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"This is ideological and systemic. We reiterate, without fear of attack from the MEC, that this was a kangaroo court process and we will not stop exposing this injustice through our oversight work," said Sayed.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said if Sayed had read the judgment, he would know that the basis for the finding and sanction extended far beyond what he had suggested was the only transgression.

Executive Action Group spokesperson Allan Liebenberg said the outcome was not unexpected, because they had recognised and complained about the unfair and dishonest disciplinary process.

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"Ultimately, this matter will move from the hands of a discredited, D- controlled Education Department to an authority which is honest and true to its mission and mandate. We are confident that this step will lead to a just resolution," Liebenberg said.

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Cape Argus

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