Neumann interdict application struck off the roll with costs in favour of the WCED
Statement by Bronagh Hammond: Director of Communication, Western Cape Education
The WCED welcomes the decision by the Labour Court this morning to dismiss Mr Neumann’s attempt to halt his imminent disciplinary proceedings by way of an interdict, by striking it off the roll with costs.
The WCED has always maintained that the argument used by Mr Neumann to try and suspend the commencement of his disciplinary hearing by way of an urgent interdict had no basis in law or fact.
The WCED has been constantly vilified in the media regarding its stance in this case. False reporting and the publication of gratuitously defamatory comments have not helped and whilst we have not released the details of the charges against Mr Neumann to the public out of respect for the employee/employer relationship and privacy, we do now release the contents of the Heads of Argument filed by the WCED in the Labour Court hearing on the interdict process, which are now a matter of public record. Hopefully these will provide clarity as to the basis of the stance taken by the WCED in this matter, both legally and factually, and will curtail further inaccurate reporting on this matter.
The decision by the National Government to re-open public schools post the Covid hard lockdown on1 June 2020 was rational, constitutional and based on solid expert medical advice, as determined by the high court in Gauteng. Along with all others, the educators and Grade 12 learners at Heathfield High were required to return to school on the gazetted date of 1 June 2020.
Various officials engaged with Mr Neumann attempting to persuade him to reopen the school, or keep it open for those learners that, according to National Directions, were required to attend school. Mr Neumann continued to actively participate in a campaign against the reopening of schools. In this process, parents of the school were informed “Not to send their children to school”.
The WCED was informed by various interested parties , including parents, that Grade 12 learners had not attended school for some time.
During the week's short break for Grade 12’s in July, the Head of Department (HOD) wrote to Mr Neumann stating the following:
“Grade12 is the culmination of the career of every learner. Some reach this milestone by overcoming severe personal and socio-economic obstacles. Consequently, it is the department’s responsibility to ensure that each learner, not only in Grade 12, makes a success of his/her school career. The face-to-face engagement of a teacher with learners remains critical in the pedagogical enterprise which this department will protect at all cost.”
The HOD reminded Mr Neumann that the Grade 12s had lost teaching time during lockdown and that the remaining teaching time was essential in preparation for their final examinations. Mr Neumann was thus instructed to ensure that every “Grade 12 learner and their parents/guardians are informed, in writing, of the requirement that every Grade 12 learner must physically be at school every day of the week, from 3 August 2020, until the start of their final NSC examinations”.
Mr Neumann was also advised that directives had been received from the Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, which urged Provincial Government to implement disciplinary procedures where educators refused to report for duty.
Mr Neumann failed to comply with the deadline to inform parents as such. Instead he responded by addressing a hostile and defamatory letter to the HOD, which he elected to copy to “All media houses”.
After additional correspondence the Department informed Mr Neumann of charges that are being brought against him, including that of failing to carry out a lawful instruction of the employer, committing misconduct by allegedly encouraging personnel to not report for duty and discouraging the attendance of learners via social media platforms, and for prejudicing the administration, discipline or efficiency of the WCED, by distributing disrespectful pictures and /or videos on Facebook.
Mr Neumann subsequently then sought an urgent interdict just days before his disciplinary hearing was scheduled to commence, to prevent the disciplinary hearing. He has now lost that application and the WCED will let the relevant processes run so as to enable a presiding officer to decide on the merits of the matter, based on the facts and the law in this regard.
Western Cape Education Department
072 7241422 (please whatsapp or sms me if unavailable)