Teacher claims dismissal after 20 years’ service was due to pro-Israel views

A former teacher at the Laudium Secondary School in Pretoria, has turned to the Labour Court in Johannesburg as he felt that he was given the boot unfairly.

A former teacher at the Laudium Secondary School in Pretoria, has turned to the Labour Court in Johannesburg as he felt that he was given the boot unfairly.

Published May 9, 2024


A now former teacher at the Laudium Secondary School in Pretoria, who claimed he was dismissed after nearly two decades at the school because of his pro-Israel sentiments, turned to the Labour Court in Johannesburg as he felt that he was given the boot unfairly.

But the school’s governing body claimed this was not the reason for his dismissal and said his term of employment simply came to an end.

The governing body, however, raised four special pleas, in terms of which it wanted the court to dismiss the application before even listening to the merits. The special pleas included that the Labour Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

According to the governing body, the application by the teacher, on his arguments, concerns unfair discrimination. Thus, the governing body said, the teacher’s case had nothing to do with the Labour Relations Act and it should not be entertained by the Labour Court.

This dispute concerns an alleged dismissal where the applicant, only identified as Mr M, alleges that the reason for his dismissal was his religion, belief and political opinion.

He was employed by the school for over 20 years as an Afrikaans teacher. His fixed-term contract was not renewed, allegedly because of his expression of political views and opinions, which found little support in the community serviced by the school.

He was engaged on successive three-monthly fixed-term employment contracts for a lengthy period, which exceeded 20 years, according to Mr M.

He is an ardent and outspoken Christian who regularly engaged in religious debates on social media. In May 2021, Mr M posted a WhatsApp status update which read: “I am not anti-Palestine, but I am anti-Hamas. I stand with Israel.”

He resides in a predominantly Muslim community, which did not take kindly to his WhatsApp post. The post was made in relation to a highly emotive issue – the long-standing hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians (including Hamas) in the Gaza Strip.

He was fully aware that his post would attract negative reaction, Judge Reynaud Daniels remarked.

Following his WhatsApp post, Mr M received various threats, and protests were held outside his home.

Afraid for his safety, he failed to report for duty.

The school’s governing body subsequently sent him a notice, requiring him to submit the necessary documentation to assess the renewal of his employment contract.

Mr M said he arranged a meeting with the school to discuss his difficulties, but this was cancelled by the school.

The school denies that any such meeting was arranged.

He meanwhile failed to submit the required documentation by the school’s deadline.

The school sent him a further notice, informing him that it was recorded that he had been absent without leave.

It further recorded that the applicant was required to apply for leave, or report for duty within 14 days, failing which he would be deemed to have been discharged in terms of the Employment of Educators Act.

He was also told that if he did not submit the documentation required (to have his employment contract renewed), the school would not renew his employment contract.

The applicant referred a dismissal dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), in which he claimed that he had been dismissed unfairly because he had a reasonable expectation of renewal of his contract.

He also alleged that his dismissal was automatically unfair because the reason for his dismissal, according to him, was his religious and political beliefs.

The CCMA, however, failed to enrol the dispute for conciliation and issued no certificate of the outcome of conciliation.

The applicant then referred a dispute to the Labour Court in which he alleged that he was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against.

He said that he had a reasonable expectation that his contract would be renewed because he was a good teacher and he had been employed for more than two decades on a fixed-term basis.

But, before his grievances could have been determined by the court, the governing body raised preliminary issues such as challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

Judge Daniels, however, overturned the bulk of the special pleas raised by the governing body and ruled that the matter should go on trial before the Labour Court, so that Mr M could be given the opportunity to give evidence and the court could determine whether his dismissal was unfair or not.

Cape Times