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

Michael Komape, 5, died after having fallen ino a pit toilet in 2014. (Netwerk24, file)
Michael Komape, 5, died after having fallen ino a pit toilet in 2014. (Netwerk24, file)

The case of five-year-old Michael Komape, who fell into a pit toilet at his school and drowned, is heading to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

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

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

Since then, the family had been fighting for a semblance of justice, human rights NGO Section27 said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Komape family is appealing sections of the 2018 High Court judgment, which dismissed some of their claims.

READ: Court dismisses damages claim by family of Michael Komape, who drowned in pit toilet

Section27's Zukiswa Pikoli confirmed that the claim was for emotional shock and trauma and added that the family was also claiming R2m in damages for grief, alternatively constitutional damages.

"We will argue that the court failed to distinguish between the multiple levels of human rights violations in this case," said Pikoli.

"These are in respect to Michael himself, members of the Komape family as a result of his death and the ongoing violations of learners in Limpopo.

"The court further failed to recognise that structural relief as a prospective remedy for the Limpopo learners and a remedy recognising the constitutional violations of the family need not be mutually exclusive."

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.

READ MORE: Judge grants Komape family leave to appeal parts of his ruling

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, Pikoli said.

Judge Gerrit Muller dismissed these claims, and instead, awarded R6 000 to each of Komape's siblings for medical expenses.

"When judgment was handed down, Judge Muller of the Polokwane High Court held that the failure of the government to provide safe and decent sanitation resulted in the violation of Limpopo learners' rights, including the right to basic education," Pikoli said.

"Despite such strong findings against the government, Judge Muller dismissed the claim for emotional shock and trauma as well as the claim for R2m in damages for grief, alternatively constitutional damages."

Pikoli added that the appeal would be heard by the SCA on September 2.

"The case remains deeply emotional and difficult for the Komape family. We hope that the SCA appeal is the end of a very long road towards closure for the family."

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