I am writing this primarily as father of a 2-year-old child and in the interests of the myriad of children, who have been estranged from a parent since the Lockdown began.
Immediately prior to the Lockdown, my son and his mother had been visiting his grandmother who they had not seen in some time. We, as a family, thought it best that they not rush back, having faith in the relevant Department taking great care in formulating directives in the best interests of children across the country. After all, children’s rights are paramount.
On the 30th of March 2020, the Minister of Social Development dropped a bombshell on both parents and children alike with the publication of the first set of draconian ‘Directions’ (#43107), which simply reiterate that:
“Movement of children between co-holders of parental responsibilities is prohibited.”
There was absolutely no purpose to the direction, as Regulation #11062 prohibited the movement of all people in any event. Accordingly, the drafters felt it incumbent to justify its futility by adding that the purpose was:
“To ensure that the child is not exposed to any possible infection while moving.”
Were the drafters of the view that parents who actually want to see their children (of all people) would not take more than adequate precautions to safeguard their own children?
The regulation rambles on to provide that a non-custodial parent (for want of a better term):
“”May,” communicate on a regular basis with the child in any other manner, including over the telephone or any other form of electronic communication which “may” also include Skype, WhatsApp or video calls.”
Was it really necessary for the drafters’ to direct that, or even how, parents “may” communicate with their own children? The regulations certainly don’t preclude communication, so why on earth did they feel entitled to grant permission and specify the forms thereof?
As parents, we are deeply affected by these laws, but not nearly as much as the effect on our children themselves. Communicating remotely is a challenge for young children, more especially for infants unable to talk—Infants who have had physical contact with a doting parent virtually every day of their lives and who, after weeks of being ‘prohibited’ from contact, cry during video calls out of pure confusion at not being able to kiss, hug or even touch the parent on the other side. They simply don’t understand!
And what about less fortunate children, whose parents cannot afford or access these means of communication? What are they supposed to do?
I pause here to mention that the regulation rambles on even further to dictate that:
“Co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights must communicate with their child or children including communicating about what COVID-19 is and the temporary precautionary measures that are applied to contain the spread of COVID-19.”
Were they mindful only of kids old enough to understand? Is this not indoctrination? While obliged by draconian regulations to limit movement, not all people share the same view!
We as parents have coping mechanisms and can be stoic, but the unavoidable angst is compounded beyond comprehension by the thought of what one’s child is going through.
After solitary days and nights of reading (and writing) articles about the unfairness and unconstitutionality of the initial directives, in the hope that sanity would prevail, a damp squib of an amendment [#11083] followed on the 8th of April 2020—Providing that:
“Movement of children.. is prohibited, except where arrangements are in place for a child to move.. in terms of- (aa) a court order; or (bb) where an… agreement or parenting plan, registered with the family advocate*, is in existence.” *The family advocate is an office of the state, not a private practitioner.
The exception leaves millions of children of parents without orders, endorsed plans or agreements, estranged—children of separated parents, children of parents that were never married, children of parents in other areas as defined, and children who were simply unable to be returned home prior to the Lockdown for financial, logistical or any other reason.
In addition, the Directive omits entirely to deal with movement of even these children across ‘provinces, metropolitan and district areas’, prohibited by regulation 11062.
Far too many obvious questions and too few answered—And this after more than 10 days to consider and redraft new directives in the best interest of ALL Children!
Does the Minister of Social Development truly feel that these children, who are already estranged, deserve to be more traumatised during this trying enough period, than those in marital homes or with parents with documentation prescribed?
More especially, just a few days prior to a time so sacred to many when a period of, or even a day’s, grace for these children could and still can make a world of difference.
Can we still give the benefit of the doubt to the Minister and trust that she will expedite swift correction? Particularly when not dealing just with the rights of children, but moreover with discrimination against now even less fortunate children, who simply do not deserve it.
Surely this, of all things, should get parents up in arms, so to speak, some of whom must surely be cabinet members, opposition members, Judges, lawyers—just to name a few (but clearly not the drafters themselves). While there are manners and favours being called upon to bend the rules, children of parents who do not have access to these means, end up suffering the most!
If we, as a civil society and the legal profession as a whole, let this oversight slide, I shudder at the thought of what lies ahead.
Accordingly, all readers are urged to distribute this article in the hope that it will reach the powers that be, and that people will in turn join in forming a unified voice, specifically in light of the recent mockery of the period of the Lockdown and its threatened extension**.
Feel free to comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org
**Since the publishing of this article on the 9th of April, the extension has now become a reality, making it an even greater national imperative.
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