With no end in sight for the eradication of pit toilets in some Limpopo schools and, Section27 is again relying on the courts to pressure the province’s Education Department into eradicating the foul and dangerous structures. 

A Mail & Guardian report notes it has been seven years since the horrific death of Michael Komape who died after falling inside a pit latrine at Mehlodumela Primary School in Polokwane, Limpopo. 

It has also been three years since Judge Gerrit Muller ordered the Department of Basic Education and the Limpopo Department of Education to provide the Limpopo High Court (Polokwane) with the names of all schools in the province with pit toilets and the estimated time it would take to replace them. 

This was part of Muller’s judgment in the lawsuit brought by Section27 on behalf of the Komape f amily ag ainst the departments, in which they sought R3m in damages for Michael’s death.

The SCA eventually awarded the Komape family R1.4m for emotional shock and grief, after Muller dismissed the family’s claim for grief and constitutional damages.

On 24 May, Section27 is returning to the High Court to seek an order, among other things, that the defendants’ plan is unconstitutional and does not comply with the structural order; that the MEC be directed to revise and file with the court, within 45 days, a plan that consists of the definition of the categories of schools with sanitation challenges that have been identified; a consolidated list of schools falling into the categories identified, and an indication of the estimated time required to address the specific sanitation challenges of the schools identified. 

In its heads of argument, Section27 also says that it wants the court to direct the MEC to establish a sanitation task team within two weeks of the order, and for that task team to be headed by an independent expert in infrastructure management.

It also wants the team to provide quarterly reports until the plans are fully implemented, notes the M&G report.

Limpopo Education MEC Polly Boshielo committed to eliminating pit toilets in the province by the end of the financial year in 2019. 

She said that there were 507 schools with pit toilets in Limpopo, and that the national basic education department would replace these with proper sanitation at 300 of the schools.

She said her department would do the same at the remaining 207 schools.

Boshielo promised: ‘There will be no talk of pit latrines in the next financial year.’

However, the February state of readiness for reopening of schools report by the Department of Basic Education showed that Limpopo had 107 schools that the department classified as ‘dry’.

This means they have pit toilets that require major maintenance either because the pit is full, has broken, or is missing seats or doors.

Full Mail & Guardian report