5-year-old's pit toilet death: Komape family awarded over R1m for emotional shock

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Rosina Komape, Michael's mother is seen during the judgement on her son’s case at the Polokwane High Court. (Antonio Muchave, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)
Rosina Komape, Michael's mother is seen during the judgement on her son’s case at the Polokwane High Court. (Antonio Muchave, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file)

The Komape family has been awarded over R1 million in damages for emotional shock, NGO Section 27's former executive director Mark Heywood told News24 on Wednesday.  

"It's been a long road, but for the Komape family, at last I think there can be a sense of closure and a recognition by the court at least of the suffering that they have endured," he said.  

Komape’s parents have been awarded R350 000 each, the two older children have been awarded R200 000 each, and the three youngest children have been awarded R100 000 each. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Section27 said it welcomes the judgment, saying this was a victory for the family. 

The organisation said it hoped the ruling would bring some "semblance of closure for the family and restore their dignity for the manner in which Michael died and the treatment of the family by education authorities in the aftermath of his death". 

In 2018, the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane dismissed claims by his family who was seeking damages from the government for grief caused by his death.

READ | Pit toilet death: Michael Komape case heads to Supreme Court of Appeal

Judge Gerrit Muller ordered that two of Komape's siblings should be paid R6 000 each for medical expenses. 

The family appealed sections of the High Court judgment, which dismissed some of their claims.

In 2014, Michael drowned when a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Seshego, Limpopo, collapsed while he was using it.

The claim was for emotional shock and trauma. The family was also claiming R2m in damages for grief, alternatively constitutional damages. 

In the civil claim, launched against the government, the family sought R940 000 in general damages for emotional trauma and shock experienced as a result of his death, as well as R2m for grief.

Section 27 previously said other claims related to past and future medical expenses for the family, as well as funeral expenses and loss of earnings in respect of the mother who had to stop working when her child died.

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