In January 2014 Michael Komape (5), who had just started grade R at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng village, outside Polokwane, fell inside the school dilapidated pit toilet and died.
“Ever since my brother died life has been tough for us. My mom lost her job as she couldn’t work with the amount of pain she was going through. The trial has opened painful wounds for us as a family, as we are forced to think about the whole ordeal again. But we believe that justice will be done for Michael,” said Lydia Komape.
“The death has really affected us psychologically and emotionally,” she said, explaining that although they had started to heal, the trial that started this week has ripped their wounds open again.
The family is demanding a payment of R 940 000 from the Department of Basic Education for emotional trauma and shock, and a further R2 million for the pain they suffered since Michael died in January 2014.
While giving her testimony at Polokwane High Court on Monday, Rosina Komape – Michael’s mom and the first person to testify – became emotional and broke down in tears after telling the court that she was only told after almost two hours that her son had fallen into the pit toilet.
She explained to the court how the teachers stopped her from searching for her son inside the dilapidated pit toilet where he had fallen. Michael’s brother Moses, who is in grade 6, has been struggling to focus in school since the incident and his marks have been dropping.
Moses is expected to testify in the trial as he was among the few eyewitnesses at Mahlodumela Primary School on the day of the incident. Michael’s two friends who were with him when the incident happened are also on the witness list.
“The family deserve special damages for all the pains they suffered, Michael’s mother, Rosina was unable to go to work due to her immense grief. The family suffered psychologically,” said the family’s representative in court, Advocate Vincent Maleka.
He explained that the family is struggling to find closure with what had happened to their son.
“It is the state’s duty to protect learners at school and provide them with proper sanitation. The school governing body was concerned about the poor condition of the toilets at the school since 2009. But the department did nothing, despite various protests by residents,” said Maleka.
The whole Komape family is currently seeing a psychologist to prepare them for and support them throughout the trial.