South Africa, Cape Town – The Heathfield High School community has lodged criminal charges against a Western Cape Education Department (WCED) official after he allegedly asked a teacher to falsely testify against principal Wesley Neumann in exchange for an employment contract.
Neumann faced six charges after he refused to reopen the school amid the Covid-19 infection peak. He also wrote an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Cabinet asking for the closure of schools. At the time, Heathfield High Grade 12 learners were due to return to school in June.
Neumann was scheduled for a disciplinary hearing in October when he approached the Labour Court arguing that a decision regarding the legality of department head Brian Schreuder’s contract must be made first. Therefore his hearing was postponed.
After the Labour Court ruled in favour of the WCED on November 2, Neumann’s hearing was scheduled to start today.
In a sworn statement, seen by the Cape Argus, the teacher who was allegedly asked to falsely testify said he received a phone call from the office at about 1.30 pm on Tuesday, asking to see him at his house at 3 pm.
The teacher said the officers came to his house at about 3.45 pm on the day, allegedly carrying printed documents of the educator’s employment records, and told him his contract would expire on December 31, and that he could arrange a contract position for him at South Peninsula High School for next year.
“He told me that he was sent by the Western Cape Education Department to ask me to falsely testify against Neumann. He boasted how he was responsible for Brian Isaacs’ (former South Peninsula High School principal) dismissal.”
The teacher said that he was disgusted by the request. He said the official tried to justify why they were pursuing Neumann.
The teacher said he tried to explain to him about children and teachers who were not at school.
“I told him that teachers and children were at school and followed all the protocols. He then abruptly stopped the conversation and said he was leaving and that he would WhatsApp me.
“He did not say when or about what. He then left.”
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk confirmed that the police were investigating a case of attempted extortion, attempted corruption, and incitement to commit perjury, which was registered at the Kensington police station. The investigation continues.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said that the department was unaware of the facts or details of the alleged criminal charges, having learned of it via media reports that were published just before the start of Neumann’s disciplinary hearing on Thursday.
Hammond said that should it be correct that such a case has indeed been made, the law would take its course in that regard. She said that the department welcomed any investigation by the police into alleged wrongdoing.
“The allegations of impropriety against the WCED as is contained in these reports are without substance and denied,” Hammond said.