#Justice4Michael: The family’s day in court to commence on Monday

7 November 2017 – On 20 January 2014, Grade R learner Michael Komape went to use the pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng Village, near Polokwane, Limpopo. The school toilet was dilapidated, and could not support his weight. As a result, he fell through the structure into the toilet pit and drowned in other humans’ waste with all his dignity stripped. Michael was only five years old.

On Monday 13 November 2017, almost four years after the tragic, horrific and avoidable incident, the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane will commence hearing a claim for damages instituted by Michael’s family against the National Department of Basic Education and the Limpopo Department of Education. This case is set down for three weeks and SECTION27 is acting as the family’s legal representative with Vincent Maleka from Thulamela Chambers as the Senior Counsel.

Since the tragic death of Michael, SECTION27 has been working closely with the Komape family in their quest for justice. Since 2012, SECTION27 and community organisation Basic Education for All (BEFA) have been engaging the national and provincial education departments to draw attention to the unsafe, unhygienic and undignified state of school sanitation in Limpopo. Today, the majority of the 1.7 million Limpopo learners are forced to attend their lessons in inappropriate and unsafe infrastructure, using unsafe and unhygienic toilets, and without all of their basic learning materials such as textbooks and furniture. This is shameful.

Michael’s death was caused by a continued disregard for his safety. The state, from senior people such as the Minister of Basic Education and the MEC for Education in Limpopo, all the way through to the principal and teachers at Mahlodumela, violated Michael’s rights to dignity, life and safety. They also breached their duties owed to parents to protect their children. When parents send their children to school every day they hand over their trust to ensure that their children will be safe and their needs met.

The state has breached these obligations in their most basic sense and has been unapologetic about doing so.

The Komape family is therefore seeking an award of damages, as well as a declaration by the court as to the rights violated, which will have the effect of clarifying the State’s obligations regarding school sanitation.

SECTION27 will be leading a number of activities in the run-up to the court case as well as on the day (in partnership with BEFA). Join us in the SECTION27 office in Braamfontein on Monday, 13 November 2017 for a remembrance ceremony for Michael at the start of the case – more details will be shared. There will also be activities at the court on Monday.

 

For further information:

Nomatter Ndebele
Ndebele@section27.org.za
072 919 2752

Zukiswa Pikoli
pikoli@section27.org.za
071 195 3177