Pit toilet furore rages

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

The parents of some of the children who fell into a pit toilet are planning to sue the Mpumalanga education department for damages.

the children had only been at school for two days when the incident happened. They had started school for the first time on Wednesday last week.

Two of the eight Grade 1 pupils at Hlalakahle Primary School near Manyeleti Game Reserve died after drowning in the faeces-filled toilet on Thursday last week.

Six were admitted to Tintswalo Hospital in Acornhoek about 40km away, and only one of the children is still receiving medical treatment after the other five were discharged.

Glacier Malope, the mother of the hospitalised six-year-old Movement Mathebula, told Sowetan yesterday that she had already made arrangements with a lawyer to sue the department.

"It is not us alone, all the other parents have decided that we should sue the education department because we have realised it was not just an accident, but negligence in terms of the shoddy way in which the toilet was built," said a fuming Malope.

Wisani Malatjie, the mother of five-year-old Dimpho Ngobeni, who died deep inside the faeces, said she would also sue.

"We have so far established that the toilet did not have supporting bricks from the pit.

"It was only a slab placed on top of the earth, and this was as good as a time bomb.

"We can't let sleeping dogs lie. The department must pay big time," added Malatjie.

The other dead child, also a girl, was identified as Devotion Masinga, aged five.

Bushbuckridge-based lawyer, Mpho Mashiloane confirmed that he was handling the planned lawsuit against the provincial education department.

"Some of the families have approached my law firm with a view to instituting a lawsuit against the department for damages. We shall be filing the necessary papers in due course," he said yesterday.

It was the children's second day at the primary school and their families believed they were safe there, but it turned out they were very wrong, some of the families said.

"It was during break and our teacher told us to go to the toilet since she thought we would urinate on ourselves if we didn't.

"But when we got into the toilet the slab let go and all eight of us went down," said one of the surviving children, Movement Mathebula, who was speaking from his bed at Tintswalo Hospital on Sunday.

Hlahla Ngwenya, spokesman for the education department, said yesterday the incident was a very sad tragedy for the department.

"It was an accident and the majority of teachers at our schools are not so experienced that they could have foreseen the danger coming.

"We are in constant contact with the families and we are sending our condolences to the families of the deceased," said Ngwenya.

He said if indeed the families were instituting a damages claim, the department would wait until then before referring the matter to its legal section.