The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on Minister of Education Angie Motshekga to “take personal responsibility for the failure of her department to prevent” the tragic death of five-year-old Michael Komape who drowned in a pit toilet at school five years ago.
This after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Wednesday awarded damages to Michael’s family.
The DA says the national and provincial education departments and the minister clearly don’t care enough.
The Grade R learner died when a pit latrine at the Mehlodumela Primary School, outside Polokwane in Limpopo, collapsed while he was using it in 2014.
In 2015, his mother, father and siblings, represented by Section 27, sued the national department of basic education, the Limpopo department of education, and the school for failing Michael while he was under their care and supervision.
The Limpopo High Court dismissed the family’s claim for emotional shock and trauma as well as a claim for R2 million in damages for grief.
The court only awarded R6,000 to each of Komape’s siblings for medical expenses.
NGO Section 27 assisted the family in their legal challenge to approach the SCA to appeal sections of the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane judgment, which had dismissed some of their claims in 2018.
The award includes future medical expenses for each member of the Komape family.
DA MP Désirée van der Walt said it was “disheartening” that Michael’s family had to “walk such a long and hard road.”
“The education departments, both national and provincial, and Minister Motshekga clearly didn’t care enough and it is tragic that the family had to go to the courts to get justice,” said Van der Walt.
Van der Walt said Michael’s “heartbreaking case” was a clear reminder that many other families continued to suffer “because they have lost a child in a pit toilet accident.”
“Earlier this year it was revealed that there are more than 4,000 pit toilets still in use in South African schools. The department has been neglecting infrastructure at many schools for far too long and every day children are risking their lives by simply trying to access a basic human right.“
“Our children deserve better and it is time Minister Motshekga took a long and hard look in the mirror and admit that instead of educating our children, she is failing them,” the DA added.