Education department says it was sensitive to plight of Komape family

24 December 2019 - 12:10 By ERNEST MABUZA
James and Rosina Komape remember the day their son, Michael, drowned in a toilet at school. The Limpopo education department says it will soon pay the R1,4m in damages awarded to the family by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
James and Rosina Komape remember the day their son, Michael, drowned in a toilet at school. The Limpopo education department says it will soon pay the R1,4m in damages awarded to the family by the Supreme Court of Appeal.
Image: Ciaran Ryan

The Limpopo department of basic education says it will soon pay the Komape family the R1,4m in damages for emotional shock and grief that was ordered by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

James and Rosina Komape's five-year-old son, Michael, a Grade R pupil, suffered a gruesome death when a toilet at his school collapsed and he fell in on January 20 2014.

The SCA ordered the payment of the damages after the high court in Polokwane dismissed claims for general and constitutional damages sought by Komape’s family.

In its order last week, the SCA ordered that the basic education minister and the Limpopo education MEC pay R350,000 each to Komape's parents and R200,000 for each of his elder siblings, Mokibelo Lydia Komape and Lucas Komape.

The court also ordered the payment of R100,000 each for the Komapes' three other minor children.

However, the SCA refused to award constitutional damages to the family.

Beauty Mutheiwana, the head of the Limpopo education department, confirmed on Tuesday that the provincial department would pay the amount in the next few days.

The national department said it was concerned that, after the SCA ruling, various individuals had made comments that insinuated the department was insensitive towards the family. 

“First and foremost, the department, at provincial and national level, conceded liability that Michael Komape died at Mahlodumela Lower Primary School on 20 January 2014,” basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said.

“Department officials visited the family to provide support, during which words of regret and sympathy were conveyed to the family.” 

Mhlanga said the provincial government covered the funeral costs and logistics, and provided trauma counselling to the family. 

“The department has expressed its regret and sympathy towards the Komape family, and remains sympathetic to the family. All of this has been done to ensure the family gets the required support at all times.”

Mhlanga said the department needed the court to interpret the legal question regarding damages. 

“It was never about money, but the need for a competent authority to provide guidance of the appropriate (amount of damages) to be paid,” Mhlanga said.

The department sought to defend a principle insofar as the constitutional damages claimed by the family were concerned, he said.

“We wish to stress that several attempts were made to settle the matter out of court, but to no avail.”


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