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Speak for children still estranged by the Lockdown!

Speak for children still estranged by the Lockdown!
Apr 9, 2020 Anika
estranged by the Lockdown

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**.

–  Anonymous

Feel free to comment below or email join@linklawyer.co.za

**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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15 Comments

  1. Judy 7 months ago

    The content of your article is deeply concerning and apt It is indicative of the fact that the drafters of the legislation and regulations have no understanding of the bond which exists between parents and child or the irreverable harm separation can have on an innocent child Retraction and/or significant change to this applicable regulation is required However, if changed the process must not require permits from government Current available information indicates that the delay period in the processing of covet-19 applications is about 21 days Hopefully our president heeds the statistics and has realised that with best will in the world living conditions in South Africa are not su h so as to enable the result envisged by our president to the conditions which would exist in a perfect world. Mr Presdent this is South Africa. How is it possible for a family of five cohabiting in an abode measuring 12 sq metres to social distance. In this case the children, if not the entire family, should be allowed some time for recreation in the fresh air In South Africa we are blessed to receive free doses of vitamin D from the sun This alone can be a contributing factor to the relatively low incidence of covet-19 amongst our people. Science, common sense and maths do not support the draconion lockdown regulations. Whilst commending our government on taking action which is clearly producing the intended results we ask that the regulations are fit for purpose.

    • Anika 6 months ago

      Thank you for your feedback Judy. Your view is appreciated.

  2. Felicity Guest, founder of CMDSA 6 months ago

    On behalf of the affected parents, I sent the Minister of DoJ an email to highlight the oversights. I have obviously not had a response. I will now make it public in the hope
    that it is brought to their attention.

    • Anika 6 months ago

      Thank you for your reply Felicity!
      As I am sure you are aware, the Minister of Social Development made the ‘Directions’, but if the DOJ assists it may be helpful. The content of this article was intended to garner support publicly towards a unified effort. We now have a law firm which is willing to assist pro bono. As this falls within the jurisdiction of the high court, it would be advisable to brief an Advocate specialised in Family Law, to settle a letter of demand and appear, should the need arise. We have a few in mind but are open to recommendations of counsel you may have worked with in context and willing to similarly assist in this regard? And are you willing to co-ordinate efforts, and possibly even as an organisation, be a party with a real interest in the matter?

  3. Danja Kohler 6 months ago

    Good day

    The current regulations regarding the movement of children only allow parents who have court orders or registered parenting plans or parental responsibilities and rights agreements to move children. It discriminates against the rest of the parents in South Africa, without any logical basis. What do you have to say?

    I humbly ask, who to direct my query and plea, for myself and many other parents who are separated from their children by the recent blanket government gazette announcement that we may not visit our children, or swop over children during lockdown, simply because we do not have a stamped court order. I am not yet divorced from my husband, yet he has my 6 year old daughter and I cannot see her or fetch her for my half of visitation. I have not seen my child for weeks, and the lockdown has continued.

    I am begging for an amendment to allow parents with joint custody and equal parenting rights, to gain access to fetch their children without a court order which I cannot get at this time.

    This is gross disregard for my rights as a mother, and also discriminatory. There are hundreds, if not thousands of women like me, without a voice.

    I cannot afford R30’000 for a high court appeal. My child is suffering emotionally and psychologically. The therapist my husband pays for, has said it is imperative for her to return to my home. My hands are tied.

    Where do I turn to ?

    Yours sincerely
    Danja Kohler-Calver

    • Anika 6 months ago

      Good day Danja
      We couldn’t agree more and we truly empathise with your situation.
      Kindly see our reply to Felicity immediately above.
      This matter is close to our hearts and we are doing the very best we can to put pressure on those responsible. We will liaise with you directly via email.

    • Roxanne 6 months ago

      Hi Danja. I completely agree with you that the Covid-19 directives regarding the movement of children are totally discriminatory. There are so many families that are being affected by this short-sighted directive that completely overlooks the emotional, psychological, and physical needs of children from various types of family units.

    • Jonathan 6 months ago

      Great article!
      I completely agree with the article. The regulations regarding the movement of children only allowing parents with already stamped court orders or registered parental rights and responsibilities agreements or registered parenting plans hugely discriminate the thousands of children and parents that do not have the required financial resources to gain access to the courts and legal services, let alone the legal fees involved.
      The regulations need to be amended and or relaxed as to allow the equal right of access to courts and legal services, as well as ensuring the right of the movement of all children and parents/guardians involved without the need of a costly court order which is severely prejudicing the less fortunate.

  4. Roxanne 6 months ago

    Great feedback, Judy! Although government purports to act in the best interests of all children, it is difficult to understand how keeping children separate from their parents is truly in their best interests. Children’s emotional and psychological needs are just as important as any other needs (like protecting them from Covid-19) and it does not seem like government has given these needs much thought.

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  6. Donnie 5 months ago

    I could not resist commenting. Perfectly written!

    • Author
      Anika 2 months ago

      Thank you for the wonderful feedback! Please feel free to subscribe below in order to receive notifications on future articles that we release. Take care! 🙂

  7. watch 4 months ago

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    • Author
      Anika 2 months ago

      Thank you for the lovely feedback! We are pleased to hear that you enjoyed reading our article! Take care! 🙂

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