Section27 fights for 'claim for grief' in Michael Komape pit toilet death case

Michael Komape was five-years-old when he drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primacy School in Chebeng Village, outside Polokwane, on 20 January 2014.

His parents are suing the state for R3m and also want to compel it to provide decent sanitation at schools across Limpopo Province.

The case will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on 2 September.

RELATED: 'We want justice for Michael Komape and his family'

Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, on the Eusebius McKaiser Show, talks to Section 27 communication officer Zukiswa Pikoli about the case.

In 2014, a five-year-old Komape asked to go to the toilet and subsequently didn't return. The teacher and the school got in touch with his parents to say that he was missing. His body was discovered several hours later by his mother in a dilapidated pit toilet.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section 27

She says Section 27 had been doing work in Limpopo at the time and discovered the dire state of sanitation in the province.

The legal advocacy group heard the Komape family's plea for assistance and decided to represent the family.

It took four years to receive a court date and the case was heard in the Polokwane High Court in 2017.

The biggest impediment we had in progressing with this case was the fact that the government didn't want to come to the party in terms of acknowledging what happened and then taking accountability for what happened.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section27

Government's lack of accountability has necessitated taking the case to the Supreme Court, says Pikoli.

By the time the government offered a settlement, that was insulting to the family, and we decided to take the proceedings on board and go to the Supreme Court.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section 27

She says the education department of education and teachers from the school did not visit the family to offer condolences and or show an understanding of the magnitude of the case, and this caused the bereaved family even more pain.

When I first heard about this case, I couldn't fathom someone falling into a toilet to their death.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section 27

In court, in the states line of questioning towards Komape's parents was insensitive and lacked compassion, she says.

After three weeks, the judge granted a structural order for the Department of Basic Education to come up with a plan to address the poor sanitation in the province.

What was disappointing is that the claim for grief was not allowed as well as the constitutional damages claim.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section27

Section27 has, therefore, chosen to take the case to the Supreme Court.

Because we want the common law developed around the claim for grief. After the judgment, we wanted to fight for the Komape family to get the justice they deserve.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section27

Section 27 is running a campaign aimed at keeping Komape's memory alive called 'Justice for Michael'.

We want to ensure that his death is not forgotten and part of what we want to highlight is that the sanitation crisis is a continuing crisis which didn't stop when Michael died.

Zukiswa Pikoli, Communications officer - Section27

Listen below to the full interview:


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