Polokwane High Court reserves judgment in Michael Komape trial

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Judgment in the court case over the death of a five-year-old Limpopo learner, who drowned in a pit toilet, has been reserved in the Polokwane High Court.

Michael Komape fell into the dilapidated toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng outside Polokwane in 2014.

His family is suing the State for more than R3 million, with R 2 million being for constitutional damages. The State has accepted liability, but disputes the amount being sought.

Michael Komape’s legal representative, Advocate Vincent Maleka, wrapped up his case with a final submission.

He focused more on the conduct of the Limpopo Education Department after Michael’s death.

State lawyer Advocate Simon Phaswana had during his closing argument, asked the court to not consider the department’s conduct when ruling on the constitutional damages claim.

According to Phaswana, that would be punishing the defendant. However, Maleka reminded Judge Cornelius Muller that the department’s conduct was what led to the litigation, so it cannot be ignored.

Maleka has also asked the court to take into account that the case involves poor people, who on their own, don’t have the means to fight the state.

He says awarding the constitutional damages claim, would also be victory for thousands of learners who still lack safer sanitation facilities in Limpopo.

Maleka wants the judge to make a declaration that the provincial education department has failed to uphold its constitutional mandate.

Meanwhile, Michael’s mother has expressed relief that the case is almost over.

Rosinah Komape, who spoke to the SABC shortly after judgement was reserved says she is relieved the case is over.

“We have been coming here since the matter started and it has taken too long. We are relieved that the case is almost over. We hope the court will rule in our favour.”

Mark Heywood from Section 27 says he is disappointed in the way government is handling the case.

“Government’s attitude throughout this case has been very careless. The way that they have conducted this litigation has been hurtful to the Komape family. The suggestion that the Komape family are merely trying to exploit their son’s death to get more money, is a disgusting suggestion. The way they have approached this litigation is unfriendly to poor people and that in itself is against the spirit of the Constitution. So I think government if it is going to show its caring, its got to change its attitude to these types of tragedies.”

Judge Cornelius Muller has indicated that he would inform the parties about the next court date.