Solidarity welcomes ruling in Schweizer-Reneke teacher's case

The Labour Court found it was unlawful for Elana Barkhuizen to be suspended from the North West school which is embroiled in allegations of racism.

Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke teacher Elana Barkhuizen.  Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG – Trade union Solidarity says it hopes Thursday's Labour Court ruling overturning the suspension of a Schweizer-Reneke teacher will send a strong message to employers who undermine labour practices.

The Labour Court found it was unlawful for Elana Barkhuizen to be suspended from the North West school which is embroiled in allegations of racism.

Barkhuizen is the teacher who took the picture that went rival earlier this month showing black and white pupils seated at separate tables in a grade R class.

No action has yet been taken against her colleague who is responsible for that class.

Solidarity says while it welcomes the Labour Court ruling vindicating Barkhuizen, it's unfortunate they had to go to court to fight her suspension.

The trade union's Dirk Hermann says: “We see this judgment as a victory for justice in general. Of course, it’s a victory for Elana Barkhuizen but this is much more than that.”

Hermann says all employers have a lesson to learn from this judgement.

“And that is South Africa is a democracy with rules and there’s a specific constitutional framework that you must act in.”

Barkhuizen became emotional as she thanked those who supported her during her suspension.

She says she feels vindicated and believes justice has prevailed; adding that she can't wait to return to her classroom.

“Thank you to everybody for their support, everyone who helped and who was there for me. Justice has been served and for that I’m glad and grateful.”

While handing down her ruling, Judge Connie Prinsloo said while racism has to be called out wherever it appears, more investigations are needed in the case of Schweizer-Reneke.

She’s ordered the school and its governing body to ensure that Barkhuizen is back in the classroom on Friday.