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The wait for justice continues for Komape family

LIMPOPO – The Komape family will have to wait until next year to know the outcome of the lawsuit they have brought against the Department of Education after their son died at school.

The trial is set to conclude on the 1st and 2nd of February next year at the Polokwane High Court. The family is suing the department for R3-million for the trauma and stress they suffered after Michael drowned in faeces the school’s pit toilet in January 2014.

On Tuesday(28 November) defense witness and former principal of Mahlodumela Primary School, Maphalane Malothane, explained that the school had been scared to visit the Komape family after the little boy died. He was five years old and had just started Grade R.

“We feared visiting the family as they told us that we were the ones who killed their son Michael,” she said.

She told the court that it was because of this fear that they had not told the Komapes about the donation of desks made to the school in honour of Michael after his death.

On the day that Michael died, the former principal – who was also his class teacher – only learnt that he was missing when his name was read out in class.

“When we realised that he was missing we conducted a search at the school but we couldn’t find him. It was on our third search, after his mother was already at school, that’s where she suggested that we also look at the toilets. She collapsed after seeing his hand,” said Malothane, explaining how the mother had discovered her son had drowned in the pit toilet, with his hand reaching up for help in death. The scene encountered by the anxious mother caused her to faint.

No help

Asked by the representative lawyer, Advocate Vincent Maleka, why she did not help Michael’s mother when she collapsed Malothane said: “I did nothing, because I did not know what to do.”

Michael fell into the school pit toilet, which were built as temporary toilets and were not supposed to have been permanent structures. Malothane told the court that she wrote letters to the department of education back in 2009 asking the department to build permanent toilets at the school, but she never followed up on her letters.

The temporary toilets which were being used at the school when Michael drowned were not suitable to be used by primary school learners as their holes were huge.

When Advocate Maleka asked Malothane if she would have allowed her children to use a toilet like the one in which Michael had drowned, Malothane said: “No. After the parents came and shook the toilet structures I wouldn’t allow my children to use them, because they were shaking.”

The temporary toilets which were being used at the school when Michael drowned were not suitable to be used by primary school learners as their holes were huge.

According to Malothane, about 10 parents visited the school after Michael’s body was removed from the school toilet.

“The parents came and said they wanted to see the toilets because they had heard that a learner had fallen inside. They started to shake the toilet’s structure, saying that they do not want their children to continue using them as they did not want them to be victims like Michael,” said Malothane.

The defense concluded their case by calling their last witness, Makoma Rasekgala, who works at the Department of Education as the Chief Director of Continuous Professional and Teacher’s Development. Rasekgala told the court that she visited the Komape family after she received a call that the family needed gas, which she personally delivered to them.

Rasekgala further said the department had sent a task team to help prepare for the child’s funeral and that food was provided to the family during the funeral. This was in contrast to the evidence given by Michael’s mother Rosina Komape, who testified that the department never offered the family any form of help during the funeral.

Both the state and representatives are scheduled to make their final arguments on December 19.

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