Teachers, pupils and community members protested outside Western Cape Education Department in support of their principal Wesley Neumann. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus
Teachers, pupils and community members protested outside Western Cape Education Department in support of their principal Wesley Neumann. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

WCED under fire for protecting official involved in bribery

By Aishah Cassiem Time of article published May 10, 2021

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Cape Town - Concerns have been raised over the underbelly of the province’s education system following continuous cases of bribery and corruption by senior officials serving under the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

While the department had last month pointed out the number of officials, teachers and principals disciplined for fraud and theft, the public specifically raised questions over officials who still serve under the WCED even though they had been fingered in corruption.

The department has been criticised for protecting a senior official who allegedly bribed a teacher with a position if he co-operated with the department by falsely testifying in a disciplinary hearing against Heathfield High school principal Wesley Neumann.

The SAPS, which confirmed the case, said no arrests and charges have been made at this stage as they continue their investigation. However, the WCED, which previously dismissed the claims against their employee, are now allegedly refusing the three witnesses in the bribery matter the right to testify at Neumann’s hearings.

According to one of three affidavits handed over to SAPS, the official hounded, intimidated, and bribed the teacher inside his home and had boasted about how he was the same official responsible for the dismissal of the former South Peninsula High School principal Brian Isaacs.

The school stressed that while the case was still being investigated by the police, six months later, there are still no results and the official continues to serve under the WCED.

The WCED argued the decision by the national government to reopen public schools at the time was rational, constitutional, and based on solid expert medical advice, and that parents had the option to apply for an exemption to not send their children to school if they had concerns regarding the safety of their children, but “Neumann failed to comply with the deadline to inform parents as such and charges were brought against him”.

However, Neumann stressed that the hearings and bribery were bigger than what it seemed and argued that it exposes parts of the underbelly of how the department operates and dismisses employees who challenge the department.

“It is disturbing to think officials can do this and (bribe). It is a common practice in the system, which is wrong on all levels. Unfortunately, my teacher was not prepared to do something unlawful, he had his integrity,” he said.

Allan Liebenberg, spokesperson for the Executive Action Committee, in defence of Neumann explained that shortly after the school laid the charges, the premier’s office sent out officials from the Provincial Forensic Services (PFS) to summons the teacher for an interview.

While he suspected that it was orchestrated by WCED, he also questioned the relevance of the premier’s office on the matter and said they had not approached anyone on the bribery matter other than SAPS.

The premier’s office confirmed that the WCED requested that the PFS investigate allegations made against the official and said the forensic services completed its investigation, providing the outcome to the WCED.

Communications director for WCED Bronagh Hammond said the previous head of department, Brian Schreuder, requested that the matter be investigated by the PFS and recently received the outcome of the investigation.

“The report did not find evidence to substantiate the allegation of improper conduct against the employee of the WCED,” she said.

The public stressed that the FIU report was concluded before the police’s investigation and even though Neumann requested to bring the witnesses to his hearings to testify on the bribery, his request was declined by the WCED.

The WCED strongly believes the allegation is a continuous campaign to discredit their department and the ongoing legal process that is currently under way. “References to Nazism, colonialism, and racism have been quite common. The same official that was accused of bribery sadly has also been subjected to intimidation by supporters directly outside his house.”

Meanwhile, Liebenbe said Schreuder has clearly attempted to redirect the focus on demonstrating supporters of Neumann rather than his hubris which is the root cause of the 14-month-long, unjust persecution of a well-respected principal.

Supporters of Neumann, who include parents, teachers, students, and unions will gather at the WCED offices on Tuesday to hand over a memorandum to WCED and to demand that the charges against Neumann be dropped.

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Investigations Unit: [email protected]

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