Parents suing Limpopo Department of Education for more than R2m.
CIVIL organisations hope that the Polokwane High Court will deliver a ground-breaking judgement in the case of Grade R learner, Michael Komape, who fell and died in a dilapidated pit toilet on his third day of schooling in Limpopo.
It was on 20 January 2014 during break time that five-year old Michael rushed to the dilapidated pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Chebeng outside Polokwane. He fell into the toilet and was later found by his mother, Rosina, after he drowned in the ordure.
Section 27 initiated litigation against the Limpopo Department of education on behalf of the Komape family. Equal Education (EE) also provided arguments in favour of the litigation as a “friend of the court”.
The family is seeking more than R2 million in claims which include;
- An amount for damages for the emotional trauma and shock experienced by the parents and minor children
- Damages for grief as a result of the death and the circumstances of the death of Michae, alternatively, and on the same basis, constitutional damages
- Future medical expenses in respect of psychological counselling sessions for the three minor children.
Section 27 has indicated that the case was not only about the death of Michael.
It also highlighted the dignity of similarly situated learners throughout the country, hence the organisation hopes the judgement will set a precedent for future cases.
Though the State admitted liability for the death of Michael, it is against the awarding of “constitutional damages for the breach of the State’s constitutional duties to provide education and ensure the safety and dignity of the children under its care.”
At the closing arguments in court last week, the State legal representative, Adv Simon Phaswane, argued that there was no need for further payments to the family as evidence it has since been presented that the family had shown mental progress due to counselling.
But the family’s legal representative, Adv Vincent Maleka pointed out: “The death of Michael Komape cannot be a mere matter of tragic statistics.
“It took place at the hands of public officials who were in loco parentis in relation to him and a s a result of manifest multiple breaches of constitutional obligations which were foreseeable.”
Maleka also showed that the State failed in its obligation to upheld section 195 of the Constitution by not exercising an efficient, economic and effective use of resources in ensuring proper sanitation infrastructure.
Judgement has been reserved.
Section 195 of the Constitution
BASIC values and principles governing public administration 195.
Public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including the following principles:
- A high standard of professional ethics must be promoted and maintained.
- Efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted.
- Public administration must be development-oriented.
- Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.
- People’s needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making.
- Public administration must be accountable.
- Transparency must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information.
- Good human-resource management and career-development practices, to maximise human potential, must be cultivated.
- Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness, and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.
The above principles apply to –
administration in every sphere of government; organs of state; and public enterprises.
National legislation must ensure the promotion of the values and principles listed in subsection (1).
The appointment in public administration of a number of persons on policy considerations is not precluded, but national legislation must regulate these appointments in the public service.
Legislation regulating public administration may differentiate between different sectors, administrations or institutions.
The nature and functions of different sectors, administrations or institutions of public administration are relevant factors to be taken into account in legislation regulating public administration.