Court dismisses compensation claims over Komape’s death

Michael Komape.
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The Polokwane High Court has dismissed a R3 million constitutional and grief claim by the family of deceased pupil Michael Komape.

Five-year-old Komape died after falling into a pit latrine at a Chebeng primary school in Limpopo in 2014. The court ordered the Basic Education Department to pay R12 000 towards future counselling for two of the Komape’s younger children.

The case was brought by advocacy group Section27 and the Komape family.


The ruling has left many shattered. Judge Muller has ordered the department to provide the court with a plan on school sanitation in Limpopo by the end of July.

A list containing names and location of schools in rural areas using pit toilets must also be compiled. In a ruling that took under five minutes, the judge did not provide reasons for dismissing the claim

“First and second respondents are ordered to supply and install at each rural school currently equipped with pit latrines in the Limpopo province with one, a sufficient number of toilets, for each school for the use of children, which are easily accessible, secure and safe, and which promotes privacy and health and hygiene based on assessment of the most suitable hygiene and sanitation technology.”

The Department of Education has acknowledged the ruling and says plans to eradicate pit toilets at schools are already underway

“The tasks that the judge has said we need to do are what we have already been directed to do by the President. The President has said we needed to put together an audit of all the pit toilets schools and give a plan on how we will eradicate them. That work is almost complete,” says the department spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga.

Advocacy group Section27 says they are considering an appeal.

“We are disappointed with the judgment. One of the things that we had hoped to get was general damages for the Komape family and unfortunately this was dismissed by the judge. We had also hoped for constitutional damages or development of a common law to the amount of R2 million, this unfortunately was dismissed by the judge and instead a structural interdict was put in place to basically ensure that there was safe toilets. But its very likely in principle that we are looking to appeal,” says the group’s spokesperson, Sheniece Linderboom.

Michael Komape’s parents were not available for comment.

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