11 JULY 2017 – JUSTICE FOR MICHAEL KOMAPE

JOHANNESBURG – The Limpopo High Court has set a trial date in a case brought by the family of the late Michael Komape after the five-year-old fell into his school’s pit toilet and died. The trial will take place in Polokwane from 13 November to 1 December before Deputy Judge President Fikile Mokgohloa.

The trial will cover one of the worst examples of the price paid by poor South African learners for hazardous school infrastructure, such as pit toilets. In January 2014, Michael was a Grade R learner at Mahlodumela Primary School, just outside Polokwane, when he fell into the school’s pit toilet and died in human excrement and other waste. He was six years old and had just started school.

While provincial and national education departments provided the school with new toilets, to this day, however, there has been no acceptance of responsibility by government of Michael’s tragic death. Neither the provincial or national departments has approached the family to offer any apology or compensation following Michael’s death. These court proceedings are therefore the family’s only option to obtain justice, and the trial date comes after a series of delays and waits which threatened to prevent the case moving forward.

Michael’s parents, Lydia and James, and their children are claiming damages from the Minister of Basic Education, the Limpopo MEC for Education and the school principal, on the basis that they acted negligently or in violation of learners’ constitutional right to a basic education. In court documents, the defendants continue to deny that Michael’s death arose as a result of any negligent or unconstitutional conduct on their parts, consistently treating it as an unfortunate accident.

Lydia Komape, Michael’s sister and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said: “I am glad we at least have a trial date now. A lot of time has passed and January [2018] will be four years since Michael died. It has gone on for almost four years. We only wish that the case can finish so that we can have closure.”

It is not simply that Michael’s death was particularly egregious, but also that the capacity for delays in the legal process has played out to extremes in this case, denying the Komape family justice.

Media inquiries (Comment from SECTION27 and/or the Komape family) – Zukiswa Pikoli 011-3564100 pikoli@section27.org.za