Request to have Heathfield High principal’s disciplinary open to public denied
By Sisonke Mlamla 17m ago
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Cape Town – The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the external presiding officer have denied the request to open the disciplinary hearing of Wesley Neumann, principal of Heathfield High school, to the public.
Department's spokesperson Bronagh Hammond, said internal disciplinary proceedings held in the department were confidential in nature, therefore, she was not at liberty to disclose anything at this stage.
In a leaked communication allegedly sent to those who requested the hearing to be made public, an external presiding officer, Ronélle Raubenheimer, appointed by an independent contractor and the department, said the form of a disciplinary procedure was determined by the employer and schedule 2, item 7(2) sets out the authority and duties of the presiding officer.
Raubenheimer said therefore, no mention was made in the item, however, of any authority or discretion to allow for the presence of the media or members of the public at such a hearing.
“Your request has also been referred to the legal representatives of the parties and after due consideration of their submissions, I came to the conclusion that in terms of the legal framework regarding schools, no such power of discretion vests in the presiding officer. Therefore, your request of reporting on and video recording the disciplinary hearing of Neumann cannot be granted,” she said.
Executive Action Group spokesperson Allan Liebenberg said while they were disappointed by the ruling of the presiding officer, it was not unexpected.
Liebenberg said they would strengthen their resolve and hammer away at the injustices of the education department.
“Decisions and findings always seemed to favour a few elite officials within the bureaucracy who have abused power and process in their reckless behaviour towards teachers and principals.”
“Their legal team seems to be at a loss as to why we want the disciplinary process to be open to members of the school governing body and any member of public who has an interest in this case,” said Liebenberg.
He said those and many other shortcomings of the department occur because power was located in the wrong hands.
Neumann is facing six charges following his refusal to reopen the school amid the Covid-19 infection peak last year.
C-19’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Basic Education Working Group, said they were in solidarity with Neumann.
“We stand in solidarity with Heathfield High School as they resist the efforts of the WCED to suppress dissident voices rather than engage in constructive dialogue,” the group said.
“At the core of Neumann's case is the simple fact that many of our schools simply do not have access to sufficient funding in normal times to acquire and maintain the equipment required to be Covid-19 compliant.”