Former Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann has for the first time, after failing to have his dismissal overturned, spoken out about the alleged “personal vendetta” against him, and his refusal to surrender in his struggle to get his job back. Now he has approached the Labour Court.
As Neumann’s legal battle against the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) continues, he has pinned his hopes on the court to set aside former head of department Brian Schreuder’s second contract extension.
Schreuder instituted the disciplinary proceedings against Neumann, who was found guilty of insubordination and misconduct for allegedly going against his directives to have children back at school at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
During this process, the Public Service Commission probed a complaint into the second two-year extension of Schreuder’s initial five-year contract.
The probe found that the further extension of Schreuder’s contract from April 1, 2019, to March 31 next year was irregular.
Premier Alan Winde disagreed with the findings, and Schreuder later retired.
Neumann’s labour court application has eight respondents including the WCED, the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) and the Western Cape Government.
He wants the court to review and set aside the provincial government’s decision to extend Schreuder’s contract.
Neumann also wants the court to direct the WCED to reinstate him as Heathfield High School’s principal on the same terms and conditions of employment, with backpay dated from May 20, 2022.
Part B of his application seeks the review and set aside the ELRCs findings of June 2023, that found his dismissal “procedurally and substantively fair”.
Concerning his argument about the alleged refusal to open the school, Neumann claimed to have joined a campaign where other teachers and principles were also involved.
“It is very clear to me that Schreuder has decided to target me in an attempt to have me dismissed. I felt that he had a personal vendetta against me. At my school I faced serious challenges, including a concern that the school was not being properly sanitised. My superiors were notified twice about this.
“I have been at the school for about 14 years, and have built great relationships with the community, parents and pupils. Education is my passion, I gave the school my all and was involved in a lot of activities. I placed the best interest and safety of the children first.
“Then I was handed the harshest punishment, ignoring that this was during a period where everyone was anxious and just thinking about health safety. My track record of hard work and professionalism was not considered. Not once were there prior charges of misconduct or received warnings for other incidents,” he said.
Neumann was dismissed in 2022 after rejecting a demotion order.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond: We can confirm that Mr Neumann has launched an application for review in the Labour Court.
“The MEC (David Maynier) and WCED are opposing the matter and have filed a notice to oppose.
We cannot at this stage comment on the merits of the case or matters pertaining to Heathfield High insofar as they relate to this case. We are still in the process of consulting and preparing a reply to his papers.”