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State failed to sufficiently probe Michael Komape’s death, court told

Section 27’s Mark Heywood says the boy’s death was a serious violation of the Constitution.

FILE: Michael Komape's classmates are gathered outside his house in Limpopo for his funeral service. Picture: Masego Rahlaga/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Polokwane has been hearing closing arguments on the amount of damages to Michael Komape’s family should receive for the pain and suffering they’ve endured.

Five-year-old Komape drowned in a Limpopo pit toilet in 2014.

Legal advocacy group Section 27 is suing the government for damages on behalf of the family.

The High Court in Polokwane has heard that the State failed to sufficiently investigate Komape’s death and that it refused to take responsibility, forcing legal action in pursuit of accountability.

WATCH: #Justice4Michael!

Section 27’s Mark Heywood says the boy’s death was a serious violation of the Constitution.

“A special award should be made but an ordinary award of damages for psychological injuries to his family is insufficient.”

Heywood says he hopes this case will be a wakeup call for the government.

“If it [the government] continues to fail to meet learners' right to safe and hygienic toilets, then they’re going to be in big trouble.”

The court will have to consider whether to award the family damages for pain and suffering or to order the State to pay constitutional damages.

LISTEN: Parents of child who drowned in pit toilet seek justice

CONSEQUENCES OF THE LAW

Section 27 says it hopes Komape’s case will be a warning to the government, that if it continues to violate human rights it will face the consequences of the law.

Heywood says they hope the little boy’s case will set a major precedent.

“Dignity and equality are not just rights in our Constitution but our foundational values. If you’re a child and you can’t go to school without the basic modicum of dignity or equality, then something is profoundly wrong.”

Meanwhile, images of pit toilets at a Mpumalanga secondary school emerged on social media earlier this week.

The Education Department in the province says it’s aware that nearly 300 pupils at the Malatse Secondary School use the dilapidated ablution facilities.

Spokesperson Jasper Zwane said: “We’ve seen the pictures, spoken to the officials at the school and received comprehensive reports from the school. We’re currently putting systems in place to ensure that the dignity of the learners is preserved.”

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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