Former Heathfield High School principal Wesley Neumann has taken the battle with his ex-employer, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), to the Labour Court, challenging his 2020 dismissal.
In his court papers, Neumann submits that he was targeted by former WCED head, Brian Schreuder, arguing that Schreuder felt “personally affronted” by the term “baaskap” (mastery) used in a letter response after it was communicated that disciplinary proceedings would be instituted against Neumann.
These proceedings were for allegedly going against Schreuder’s directives to have children back at school at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In simple terms, he took it personally and that is what motivated him to pursue my dismissal,” Neumann submitted.
Schreuder declined to comment.
Neumann further submitted that the disrespect and insolent or abusive behaviour charge – one of six misconduct and insubordination charges he was found guilty of by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) – was based on a selective extraction of a letter. The ELRC found the dismissal of Neumann by the WCED was “procedurally and substantively fair” and granted him no further relief.
Neumann argues that the council’s outcome failed to include material aspects of his letter, such as the confirmation that he would comply with the instructions received.
“It also deliberately excludes words in order to meet the requirements of the allegation.
“The full sentence is, ‘It is unfortunate that as head of education you resorted to pre-1994 methods of issuing instructions in (a) baaskap manner instead of engaging with the school and the problems that we are currently experiencing so that a solution could have been sought; this would as you stated have gone far towards possible success of the learners’ academic success ... I explained that my intention was to highlight the ‘top-down power-relations’ approach which was used to control people in the apartheid era,” an excerpt from Neumann’s affidavit read.
Neumann’s legal representative said there was also a two-part interlocutory application to be decided upon, relating to the amount of time allocated for responding to his client’s review application and relief sought.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they were aware that Neumann brought the review applications in both the Labour Court and the Western Cape High Court.
“All Western Cape Government respondents cited in his application have filed notices of opposition. The matters are currently before the courts and the WCED will continue to respect the legal process and look forward to its conclusion,” said Hammond.
Meanwhile, Neumann has also turned to the court to set aside Schreuder’s second contract extension by the WCED.