Justice at last in pit toilet saga

The parents of Michael Komape, James and Rosina Komape.
The parents of Michael Komape, James and Rosina Komape.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

Justice was finally served to the family of Michael Komape, after enduring five years of pain and suffering following their son's gruesome death in a school toilet.

The Komapes got solace from the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein yesterday after it ordered that the family get paid more than R1m for emotional shock and grief following Michael's death by drowning in a pit latrine on January 20 2014.

Michael was at the time a five-year-old and in grade R at Mahlodumela Primary in Chebeng, outside Polokwane.

The SCA ordered that the basic education minister and the Limpopo education MEC pay R350,000 each to Michael's parents and R200,000 for each of his two siblings. The SCA further ordered that the minister and MEC pay future medical treatment of R6,000 each, among others.

We join those who welcome the judgment by judge Gerrit Muller yesterday. Though it will not bring Michael back but it will give the family a sense of closure.

Michael's heartbreaking story had a horrific repeat in rural Eastern Cape on March 3 last year, when Lumka Mkhethwa also died after falling into a pit toilet at Luna Primary School in Mbizana.

Lumka was also five years old and also in grade R at the time of her tragic death.

The Komapes' relentless fight for justice, assisted, of course, by civil organisations, should inspire other families who are in similar positions to Michael's family.

They wanted nothing but fair compensation for their grief and emotional trauma but initially it looked like they were fighting a losing battle.

The Polokwane High Court dismissed claims for general and constitutional damages sought by the family last year.

Pit toilets are a huge problem, not only in schools but also in communities, especially rural villages.

Government must address this problem vigorously and give it the attention it deserves.

It's not acceptable for a minister tasked with looking after the welfare of pupils to say they don't have money to tackle this problem.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga admitted on radio last year that her department would need R10bn to fix the problem of pit toilets in rural schools.

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