My vreugdes en frustrasies


Reblogged: Michael Komape

James and Rosina Komape remember clearly the day their son Michael drowned in a toilet at his school. Photo: Ciaran Ryan

Die verhoor in die tragiese dood van die 5-jarige Michael Komape het vandag begin. Ek kan my nie indink in die nagmerrie van ouers wat hulle kind op hierdie manier verloor het nie en my hart bloei vir hulle. ‘n Skool is tog ‘n plek waar my kind veronderstel is om veilig te wees? Ek hoop die verhoor sal lei tot ‘n intensiewe ondersoek na toestande in skole, nie net in Limpopo nie maar ook in die res van die land; ook nie net ten opsigte van sanitasie nie, maar oor die algemene veiligheid en versorging van kinders gedurende skoolure. Ek hoop dat Michael se dood nie net ‘n sinnelose politieke sirkus sal word nie (ek weet dis baie gevra, maar nog steeds).

Article reblogged from the website


Parents of drowned child seek justice

Michael Komape died in a toilet at school. Now James and Rosina Komape are going to court to compel the state to provide decent sanitation to schools across Limpopo.

By Ciaran Ryan

12 November 2017

Photo of James and Rosina Komape
James and Rosina Komape remember clearly the day their son Michael drowned in a toilet at his school. Photo: Ciaran Ryan

Michael Komape was five years old when he drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primacy School in Chebeng Village, outside Polokwane, on 20 January 2014.

The shocking story made news across the world, and raised questions about the governance of Limpopo Province’s education department.

On Monday the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane will begin hearing a claim for damages 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.

Michael’s parents, James and Rosina Komape, remember clearly the day he passed away, but are reluctant to talk of the details that will form part of their case against the state. It is apparent that the family has not recovered fully from the terrible events of that day.

The undisputed facts are this: On 20 January 2014 Michael fell into a pit toilet at Mahlodumela School and drowned in a sea of human faeces. Some hours later his body was retrieved by the fire department.

The toilets were demolished that same day and within weeks new toilets were erected in their place. The evidence of the dilapidation which claimed Michael’s life now lies buried underground at Mahlodumela School. Though some photographs of the deadly toilets were captured on a smart phone and will be presented to the court this week.

The efficiency with which the new toilets were erected in place of the old was something to behold. Not just at Mahlodumela School, but several other schools in the area. All of them got brand new state-of-the-art toilet facilities with uncharacteristic speed once the potential liability stemming from Michael’s death became apparent.

GroundUp spoke to several community members at Chebeng Village, and it seems the school authorities urged learners not to talk about the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death. It seems the authorities had immediately gone into damage control mode.

The story of Michael’s death had made it onto the national news networks, and then internationally. SECTION27 heard about the story and sent a researcher to investigate.

Michael died on the Monday and was buried the following Sunday. The family remains aggrieved that no-one from the provincial Department of Education attended the funeral. Virtually the entire Chebeng Village was there, but no-one from government. There was no offer to assist with funeral costs, nor was there any apparent concern for the plight of the family. Not even an apology. Which is one of the remedies being sought in the Polokwane High Court by the Komape family: a simple apology. Apart from this, the family is seeking R900,000 in civil damages for shock and trauma plus another roughly R2 million in constitutional damages (a claim based on a constitutional precedent established in two other cases). The family is also asking for a declaratory order to force the authorities to attend to the abysmal state of safety and hygiene in Limpopo schools on the grounds that this is a violation of rights to dignity, safety and security, child rights and basic education.

“The reason I decided to pursue this case was to prevent this happening to other children,” says Michael’s father, James.

Several members of the Chebeng community assisted with the family’s funeral arrangements and costs, and SECTION27 provided counselling for Rosina.

As SECTION27 investigated the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death, it became clear the government had a case to answer. “Since 2012, SECTION27 and community organisation (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,” says SECTION27 in a press release.

“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 trial has been four years in the brew, the result of various technical delays.

The question on many people’s minds is: why didn’t the state settle the case and save itself the cost and opprobrium of being seen as indifferent to the circumstances of a young boy’s tragic death? The answer is a bit more complex. There was apparently an offer to settle, but not at terms agreeable to the family. So now it will go to trial.

Before the trial begins, a march by civil society groups and community members will be held through the centre of Polokwane.

“There are some potentially ground-breaking aspects to this case,” says SECTION27 attorney Bhavna Ramjee, “particularly if we succeed in winning a declarator from the court which would compel the state to implement a plan for the provision of basic facilities in schools across the province.”

Published originally on GroundUp

© 2017 GroundUp. Creative Commons License

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and GroundUp, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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  1. Dis darem aaklig, dat iemand altyd eers moet sterf, voordat iets gedoen word. Die manier waarop hierdie arme kindjie gesterf het, is absoluut grusaam en grens aan moord!
    Verlede week het ‘n stukkende lamppaal vyf kinders gedood. Deesdae let ek dat hier tientalle skewe, stukkende lamppale in ons omgewing is..hulle wag net om om te val op iemand.😬😬

  2. I wish the international news media would promote these stories for “world-wide consumption”, so that other countries citizens would get a reality check on how a large proportion of the world’s population are living. Perhaps they would be less inclined to complain about the cost of housing; increased postage rates; the price of gasoline etc. etc. Perhaps instead of considering a larger house, or a second car, they would consider donating to organizations that are trying to effect an acceptable standard of living in poorer countries. Perhaps?

    • Comment by post author

      Yes, or perhaps the world would consider putting pressure on corrupt governments intend on lining their own pockets and not giving any thought to the very people who voted them into parliament.

  3. Hester. Ek het hierdie laaste ruk weggebly van die nuus kanale, vir oorlewing. Nou kan ek nie glo wat ek hier by jou lees nie.

    • Comment by post author

      Una, ek het ook lus om te vergeet van die wêreld daar buite waar soveel ellende heers. Ek het nou gesit en lees oor die vlugtelinge uit Mayanmar (Burma) en die internasionale gemeenskapse se non-response daarop. Dis hoekom ek sommer kwaad word as wit Suid-Afrikaners dink Amerika en Europa gaan reageer op die plaasmoorde en / of uitwissing van ‘n minderheidsgroep in hierdie land. Ek wil om ‘n hoekie gaan wegkruip.

      • Ek was gisteraand ook baie moedeloos terwyl ek dit op die nuus sien. Sommer in die bed gaan klim met my boek.

  4. What a horrible story. Every parent’s worst nightmare indeed. My daughter is the same age. The parents will never get their son back, but let’s hope they at least get their apology and this won’t happen to any other child. So cynical that they have the means to replace all toilets so fast when it’s too late!

  5. That is very sad. The child is (was) as old as my daughter. It is most awful, really. Not only because the child is dead but the circumstance in how he died. Horrid! The parents should win the case and let the government pay massive school fees for this huge lesson .

  6. Hierdie is nagmerrie gebeurlikhede. Die onbevoegdheid van departemente en instansies is sorgwekkend. Soveel onskuldige kinders wat vernietig word.

    • Comment by post author

      Ek volg nou die hofsaak in die nuus. Die arme ouers word nou regtig deur die vleismeul gedruk. Die staat probeer alles in hulle vermoë om die ouers in ‘n slegte lig te stel. Ek hoop hulle advokaat is opgewasse vir die taak om hulle kant te verdedig.

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