Justice, generic
Photo for illustrative purposes Image Credit: Pixabay

Johannesburg: South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal awarded 1.4 million rand ($97,500; Dh358,117) on Wednesday to the family of a five-year-old boy who drowned in human waste after falling into a pit latrine at his school.

Michael Komape's death in the north eastern province of Limpopo in January 2014 shocked the country.

The toilet structure above the dug-out latrine he was using collapsed and drowned him in faeces, where he was found four hours later.

"His hand peered out of the sewerage as if he was asking for help," his father told local television station eNCA about the moment they found his son's body.

The court in Bloemfontein made the damages award for the "emotional shock and grief" caused by his death.

The National Department of Basic Education was also ordered to pay for all future medical expenses for each member of the Komape family, including his parents and siblings.

Wednesday's ruling overturned an earlier one by the High Court in Polokwane, which had dismissed the damages claim while finding that the national education ministry and its provincial counterpart had violated the victim's rights.

Section27, a law centre and social justice campaigner that represented the family, welcome the ruling.

In a statement, they said they hoped it would "bring some semblance of closure for the family" and "restore their dignity for the manner in which Michael died and the treatment of the family by education authorities in the aftermath of his death".

Open latrines are still common in rural schools.

Following the death of another schoolboy in similar circumstances in early 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to eradicate open latrines from schools within two years.