For the sake of our children, unseat the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape

Wesley Neumann. Picture: Tracey Adams / Independent Newspapers

Wesley Neumann. Picture: Tracey Adams / Independent Newspapers

Published May 23, 2024


Finally, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Labour Court has ruled in favour of Wesley Neumann. Although it is one battle won in a war, at least now the terrain has shifted from the captured mechanisms of the Western Cape Education Department, to the instruments and forums of a democratic South Africa.

For the past four years, I have witnessed the ongoing struggle between the Western Cape Education Department and Wesley Neumann, a principled principal.

Last Wednesday, I took a day off from work to stand in solidarity with the many other community members who support him as he continues to face an unjust battle.

The Western Cape Education Department’s “bad faith” tactics in the matter against the principal are appalling, unjust, and against the spirit of our constitutional democracy, if not the letter of the text of our founding document.

The Constitution upholds the principles of fairness, morality, and righteousness in the distribution of resources, opportunities, and treatment among individuals and groups.

While following the proceedings, and to my surprise, the WCED brought an interlocutory application to compel Mr Neumann to comply with something he had already complied with; it was not about what Mr Neumann did wrong and what were the merits for his dismissal.

The Department launched this application on December 18, 2023 seeking a declarator that the respondent’s two-part review application be deemed withdrawn under clause 11.2 3 of the Practice Manual because the transcript was not filed within 60 days.

It became painfully clear that this application was nothing but an abuse of process by the Department, shamelessly using taxpayers’ hard-earned money to foot the legal bill.

The argument before the court was when Mr Neumann was required to file the record — all in all, the argument was about 12 days late or 12 days to spare.

Notwithstanding, according to Mr Neumann’s legal team, the transcription record was more than 3,000 pages, and he always informed the other party of its progress — yet they found it just to file this application.

Notwithstanding that Mr Neumann, who is unemployed and has not received a salary since May 20, 2022, had to fork out R120k to transcribe the record.

Mr Neumann’s legal team eloquently addressed the department, asking what prejudice they suffered - no reply was forthcoming.

Listening intently to their Senior Counsel rambling off legal jargon that has nothing to do with the substance of Mr Neumann’s dismissal, I asked myself: are these actions of a government that cares for the rule of law and upholds the pursuit of what is right, fair, and just and the prevention of injustice, discrimination, and harm?

It was clear in the courtroom that the purpose of this exercise was to persecute Mr Neumann and frustrate him by delaying this matter even further.

By filing this application, the Department was successful in delaying this matter by eight months from appearing on the court roll.

Mr Neumann displayed courage and wise consultative decision-making to guide his school through the worst challenges associated with its Covid-19 responses.

His objective was to save lives and secure safe conditions for teaching at the school. He refused to encourage his learners to return if he was unable to ensure the proper sanitary conditions at his school. This is something to be applauded, not punished.

He is an exceptional transformational leader whose ethical commitments to his learners are exemplary. He prioritises his learners’ interests and wellbeing, often sacrificing personal time and resources.

Mr Neumann is precisely the kind of leader that schools require during these times. He carried the support of his SGB and community. The WCED’s actions are antagonising the school’s learners, parents, and the community that his school serves.

He should be celebrated and supported, not victimised and undermined.

The WCED must stop abusing legal processes to persecute Wesley Neumann and all those who reject the baaskap of the DA-led structures.

We must recognise that we as a society are on a dangerous trajectory when the government weaponises and abuses legal processes to score political points.

The judge has a monumental opportunity to be progressive, set SA Labour law on a new trajectory, and arrest this abuse at the taxpayers’ expense.

The government’s fundamental role is to protect all individuals, ensure access to equal opportunities for justice, and ensure fair and just practices at all times.

This is the cornerstone of a just society. Wesley Neumann will keep on winning until justice prevails.

*Colleen Yolanda Titus is a community activist.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.