Court to decide on beggars’ children

2012-01-10 10:28

The Constitutional Court will tomorrow decide if courts have the final say in cases where children are removed by authorities, without court involvement, from parents who are begging.

The case relates to a raid that was conducted by the Department of Home Affairs in 2010, in which it removed three children, aged between one and four, from the care of their parents in Sunnyside, Pretoria.

Two of the children are those of a woman who begs near a popular Sunnyside restaurant, while a three-year-old child was taken from its father, who repairs shoes nearby.

Although the department had circulated pamphlets that it would remove the children of beggars who were accompanying them, and had warned the media of the planned raid, it did not obtain a court order for the removal of the children under a provision of the Children’s Act.

The two parents, who cannot be identified, successfully challenged the department’s actions in the North Gauteng High Court, with the assistance of the Centre for Child Law and Lawyers for Human Rights.

The department did not oppose the application, resulting in the eventual return of all the children to their parents.

The high court further found that provisions of the Children’s Act, which allow for children to be removed from parents without a court order if the circumstances justify it, infringed their constitutional right to parental care.

It ordered that a child who is removed from parental care and placed in temporary safe care has to be brought before a Children’s Court within 48 hours for a review of the removal.

The Constitutional Court will tomorrow deliver judgment on whether it will confirm the order of constitutional invalidity of the high court.

The Gauteng Department of Health and Social Development did not oppose the application.

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