Work underway to replace pit latrine backlog

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) says judgement in the Michael Komape case, ordering the department to replace all pit toilets in Limpopo, comes as work is already underway to fast track sanitation infrastructure.

Michael Komape lost his life at the age of five when he fell into a pit latrine at his primary school in Limpopo.

On Monday, Judge Gerrit Muller handed down judgment in the Limpopo High Court in Polokwane.

“This judgement comes at a time when, as the Department of Basic Education, we are seized with the matter of school infrastructure and pit latrines, in particular as per President Cyril Ramaphosa’s directive that addressing sanitation infrastructure backlogs must be accelerated.

“As a result, an audit of all school toilets is currently underway in all provinces and a comprehensive costed plan will be given to the President for consideration within the set timelines,” said the department.

Following the death of five-year-old Lumka Mkhethwa of Luna Primary School in Bizana, Eastern Cape, who met the same fate as Komape this year, President Ramaphosa issued a directive to the department to urgently address the sanitation infrastructure backlog.

“The judgment of the High Court in Polokwane falls directly in line with the directive from the President, which goes even further than the Judgement to include all schools across the entire country, not just in Limpopo. Work in this regard is already underway,” said the department.

Judge Muller dismissed the R3 million financial compensation claims of the family but ordered the Limpopo Education Department (LED) and the department to replace all pit toilets in rural Limpopo schools. The order will be under the supervision of the court.

In addition, Judge Muller ordered that the department pay R6 000 each to Michael’s siblings, Maria and Onica Komape, for future medical treatment.

The judge said getting the department to replace all pit latrines in the province is more beneficial to all learners than the awarding of compensation on constitutional grounds to one family.

“He has ordered the LED and department to supply the court with an audited list of all the schools in question and that the LED and department present costing and timelines so that the court can provide oversight in respect of ensuring these learners’ rights to decent sanitation is realized,” said the department.

The department committed to comply with Judge Muller’s order to ensure that sanitation infrastructure is a reality.

“As the Department of Basic Education, we continue to sympathize with the family of Michael Komape for the terrible loss they have suffered and commit to comply with the order of the High Court and ensure the delivery of suitable sanitation infrastructure in all of our schools across the country,” said the department. – SAnews.gov.za