WCED rife with ‘corruption and malfeasance’

Rofieka Benjamin, secretary, Special Action Committee, Lotus River

On Friday March 24, supporters of dismissed principal (Wesley Neumann) of Heathfield High School, consisting of present and past students, parents, and activists, braved the wind and cold to hand over a memorandum to the head of education (head of department), Brent Walters, in the Cape Town CBD.

The week before the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) made an official pronouncement that prima facie evidence of corruption and malfeasance exists against a now deceased official of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) who was instrumental in bringing the charges against Mr Neumann, which led to his ultimate dismissal.

In an affidavit from an employee of Heathfield High School, the employee claims that the same official from the department visited the teacher’s home to bear false testimony against Mr Neumann in return for permanent employment at another school. The whistle-blower goes further to say that the same official proudly expressed how he got rid of and dismissed Brian Isaacs, the former principal of South Peninsula High School.

The NPA’s pronouncement proves that state capture is alive and well in the WCED, where due processes and protocols are subverted to protect the ruling political party and elite officials within the bureaucracy.

We now call on Mr Walters to do the right thing and request the documents from the NPA and institute an independent commission into the findings of the NPA. It is now up to Mr Walters to prove his commitment to justice, truth and the integrity of a just education system. He ultimately has a responsibility to the parents of the Western Cape, who is his real employer – the taxpayer.

Mr Walters, you are now aware of these unethical practices in your department. It is common cause that the position of head of department in any province is a political appointment, and party politics can be very invasive. There will be pressure on you as head of department to achieve the mandate of your department in the colours of the ruling party.

The Heathfield High School community now appeals to Mr Walters to act against corruption and begin a new chapter for a just education system. We are confident that in the fullness of time, justice will prevail, and we would like history to show that Mr Walters made a valued contribution to it.

Bronagh Hammond, director of communication, WCED, responds: This is yet another attempt to try and disrupt the legal process at hand, and cause instability at the school.

The allegations regarding corruption of senior officials are not new and have no foundation.

The National Prosecuting Agency has declined to institute a prosecution. The WCED has already had the matter investigated by the Provincial Forensic Services (PFS).

The WCED received the outcome of the investigation by the Forensic Investigations Unit. The report stated that “the investigation did not find evidence to substantiate the allegation of improper conduct against (An employee of the WCED).”

This was communicated publicly in 2021 already.

This is part of a continuous campaign to discredit the WCED and the ongoing legal process that is currently under way.

Wesley Neumann was found guilty of a failure to carry out a lawful order, disrespect in the form of abusive or insolent behaviour, misusing his position by inciting staff and learners on social media platforms not to report for duty or to attend school. He was nonetheless offered a second chance, which he rejected, and he was thus dismissed. It was Mr Neumann who then made the decision to approach the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). This process is currently under way. Therefore allegations of “delay tactics” are false.

WCED officials have had to endure many personal attacks against them, including a physical incident at one of our official’s homes, where an orchestrated protest took place and stones were thrown at the official’s house, injuring his 85-year-old father.

The WCED will continue to respect the legal process that is under way and will continue to drive peace and stability at the school in the interests of the learners.