Justice department to ‘delete’ its ‘confusing’ directive on letting kids move during lockdown

Maintaining a child’s routine is critical over this period, says a child rights activist, but lockdown means lockdown.

Children of divorced or separated parents are not to be moved between homes during the national lockdown.

This is the latest from the department of justice, with spokesman Chrispin Phiri citing yesterday a previous directive gazetted by Justice Minister Ronald Lamola that “arrangements where a child is required to move from one parent to another must be attended to” would likely be cancelled.

“It it has caused some sort of confusion. I think we are going to delete it just so the procedure prescribed by social development is the one that is followed,” Phiri said yesterday.

On Saturday, when the Covid-19 National Command Council updated South Africans on the lockdown, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said children were to remain in the custody of the parent they were with when the lockdown was effected.

She added that her department would be publishing directives covering the issue.

Yesterday, Zulu’s spokeswoman, Lumka Oliphant, said the directives were still in the process of being published. She would not comment further.

Phiri said parents who had custody matters that were genuinely urgent during this time, could still approach the courts.

This was after fears that custody matters would not be considered urgent during this time and that parents who brought applications for parental access over this period could, as a result, end up having their cases struck from the roll and slapped with costs orders.

“If you want to exercise that right in the court, you can still do so,” Phiri said yesterday. “If it’s an urgent and essential matter, the courts will still be able to hear it.”

But he emphasised the courts would assess what was urgent and what was not on a case by case basis.

In one matter, which the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday did deem urgent, two young children were ordered into the care of their mother during the lockdown, but the judge provided for daily telephonic or video contact with their father.

Child rights activist Joan van Niekerk said yesterday that although it might be difficult, parents would have to engage in “cooperative planning” to make alternative forms of contact work during this time.

Van Niekerk said maintaining a child’s routine was critical over this period. “Routine helps children feel safe and secure,” she said. She encouraged parents to communicate openly with one another during the shutdown, in the best interests of their children.

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