Wesley Neumann reinstatement battle far from over

‘During the pandemic, the Education Department was run by a son of a b*tch called Brainless Hubris. This individual’s family is still being garnished for his hubrism,’ writes Wesley Neumann. Picture: Supplied

‘During the pandemic, the Education Department was run by a son of a b*tch called Brainless Hubris. This individual’s family is still being garnished for his hubrism,’ writes Wesley Neumann. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 5, 2024


Cape Town - Former Heathfield High principal Wesley Neumann has not yet thrown in the towel, following a nearly three-year battle to get his job back as headmaster of the school.

Neumann’s fight began in September 2020, after he was charged with misconduct following his refusal to reopen the school during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His decision, according to officials, went against the instructions of then head of department Brian Schreuder, who requested that all learners return to school as of August 3, 2020.

Neumann, however, stood his ground, expressing safety concerns for his staff, pupils and the community at large.

This led to a string of disciplinary hearings, which eventually led to Neumann being found guilty of misconduct charges by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

Neumann was then offered a demotion to department head at one of three schools, which he turned down, and instead approached the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) where he challenged his dismissal.

Heathfield High former principal Wesley Neumann was dismissed for misconduct during the covid-19 pandemic. Picture: Armand Hough/African News

By June 2023 the ELRC found that Neumann’s dismissal by the WCED was procedurally and substantively fair and that the sacked principal was not entitled to any relief.

A month later Neumann approached the Labour Court where he filed a review application which challenged his dismissal. This review is still pending.

He is also seeking an order that Schreuder's contract extension be declared unconstitutional, claiming that the contract extension for the second time played a role in his dismissal.

At the time, former Western Cape Premier Helen Zille had extended Schreuder’s contract from April 2019 until March 2021. By this time Schreuder had already reached the retirement age of 65 in 2017.

Neumann, in the court documents, claimed that the extension of Schreuder's contract led to his dismissal decision when the former head did not have the legal authority to do so.

The Public Service Act of 1994 allows for people older than 65 to be retained after their contract expires, but it needs to be done with the approval of the provincial legislature. However, at the time commissioner Leonardo Goosen stated in his report that he was not provided with it.

It was then deemed in 2020 by the Public Service Commission that Schreuder’s extension of contract was irregular and recommended that Western Cape Premier Alan Winde approach the court to declare his cabinet’s decision unlawful and the contract irregular.

Neumann, for this reason, challenged the court to declare Schreuder's contract extension irregular and to set aside the disciplinary proceedings made against him.

He also seeks reinstatement as the principal of Heathfield High with back pay, stating that he had suffered severe prejudice, losing employment and income during the legal process.

Neumann said he also made the decision because he had incurred significant costs in having to defend himself against unfair allegations.

The WCED said: “Based on a formal position communicated at the time by the DPSA (Department of Public Service and Administration), as custodian of the Public Service Act and its regulations, on the question of the retirement age for heads of department, and further internal legal advice on the issue, the PSC recommendations were not taken further as this would have resulted in a review application, which, based on the DPSA’s position and the internal legal advice sought, had no prospects of success.

“We are hence opposing Mr Neumann’s application, and will continue to respect the legal process and look forward to its conclusion.”

The ANC provincial spokesperson for education, Khalid Sayed, said they welcomed the particular move by Neumann and his legal team.

“Neumann’s fight is just as he has been dealt with unfairly. However, his fight has also exposed issues within the DA, especially one where they are overriding government processes.”

ANC Khalid Sayed says they will continue to support Wesley Neumann. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News

[email protected]

Cape Argus