Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Johannesburg - Omari Monono who drowned in a pit latrine may have now been buried, but his distraught mother still wants answers. Omari’s mother, Kwena, said she was still traumatised by the manner in which her son died. The 3-year-old fell into a pit toilet at his aunt’s home in Ditenteng Village in Moletjie outside Seshego, Limpopo, last week. His body was retrieved from the toilet hours later. “My son shouldn’t have died like that. He was not used to going into the toilet alone and I do not know how it happened. I have so many questions regarding his death and I want answers,” Monono said.

She said she looked sadly at Omari’s young friends at his funeral on Saturday. “They looked devastated. This is devastating for everyone. It is sad because we are supposed to continue using these toilets. They are unsafe, even for adults,” Monono said.

DA Women’s Network Limpopo provincial chairperson Désirée van der Walt said more than 73% of the population still used pit latrines, while another 3.5% of households had no toilet facilities at all. “We cannot sit idly by and allow our youth to suffer in these hazardous circumstances,” she said. Van Der Walt said according to the national education infrastructure management system, there were 916 schools in the province with only pit toilets.

“The Department of Basic Education estimated that it would cost about R7.8 billion to address the sanitation backlog at all schools. Shockingly, the budget for school infrastructure has been cut by R3.6bn, when this amount could have met nearly half this need.” She said the DA would work hard to ensure that the livelihoods of people subjected to using pit toilets were changed.

In January 2014, Michael Komape, 6, a Grade R learner at Mahlodumela Primary School outside Polokwane, was in his third day of school when he fell into a pit toilet and drowned on the premises. Legal advocacy group Section27 is representing the Komape family in appealing against the dismissal of the family’s claim for damages for the trauma they suffered, which were rejected in the high court in Polokwane in April.

Judge Gerrit Muller ordered that two of Michael’s siblings, Maria and Onica, be paid only R6000 each for medical expenses.

In March, Lumka Mketwa, 5, died after falling into a pit latrine at Luna Primary School in Bizana in the Eastern Cape. Limpopo provincial police commissioner Lieutenant- General Nneke Ledwaba described Omari’s death as “saddening and tragic”. “Parents and guardians must be vigilant at all times to avoid this type of incident from recurring,” Ledwaba said.

The Star