Trial of Michael Komape to begin in the Polokwane High Court

POLOKWANE – Three weeks have been set aside for the trial, where the NGO Section27 took the Minister of Basic Education, the principal of the Mahlodumela Lower Primary School, the school’s governing body and the Limpopo MEC for Education to court following the death of Komape on 20 January 2014.

Read more: ANCYL: Boy’s pit toilet death used for political scoring

Komape allegedly died because he inhaled human waste when he fell and drowned in a pit toilet.

Dr Kwena Selaki Matlala, who examined Komape’s body two days after his death, found the six-year-old’s body infested with maggots, bloody froth foaming from his mouth, there was severe oedema in his brain and his lungs were enlarged.

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His parents state in court papers that they have brought the action in the interests of several constitutional rights that have been infringed of their minor children and other minor children who attend schools in Limpopo, but are unable to institute these proceedings for themselves, as well as in the public interest.

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Section27 said the school instructed other pupils at the school not to tell anyone about the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death or that he was in the pit. This included withholding the fact he was in the pit from his mother when she arrived at the school, transporting her to a day care facility in the area supposedly in search of him when they knew or ought to have known, that Michael was in distress in the pit.

Pupils from Mahlodumela Primary School surround the grave of Michael Komape at his funeral. Photo: Moloko Moloto

Michael’s family is seeking damages as the child’s death was a result of “wrongful, unlawful and negligent conduct” as well as unconstitutional conduct. The Komapes’ two elder children, Mokibelo and Khomotso, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They are demanding a payment of R940 000 for emotional trauma and shock, and a further R2 million for the grief they suffered.

Section27 spokesperson Nomatter Ndebele said the court cases’s outcome could influence sanitation policy across the country and that the family were still waiting for an apology from the government.

The defendants denied that the toilet was unsafe, unsecured or unfit for human use claiming and said the injury could be described as an accident.

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Nelie Erasmus

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