Since the start of South Africa's Covid-19 lockdown, Parent24 has been inundated with messages from concerned parents with questions about how to be reunited with their children during lockdown.
Many parents had sent their children to spend time with family in other cities and provinces, thinking that three weeks bonding with the grandparents would be a good idea.
Many parents work far from home or are essential workers, and with schools and daycares closed are unable to care for their children and keep their jobs.
Stuck between provinces
One parent wrote to explain their situation, and it echoes those of many parents in SA:
"My child went home for the school holidays to visit his grandparents in KZN. His father and I stay in North West province.
I'm an essential worker but his father is not.
My question is can I collect my child from KZN without a permit or do I need to get one from the police station?
I'm afraid that since his grand parents are old they wont be able to assist him with school work since the teacher is sending me school work on a daily basis and I'm able to assist him during to the distance.
Another plea came from a mother who has just given birth.
She wrote to tell us she lives in Cape Town, but is now stuck in Limpopo.
"I recently gave birth and went to Limpopo, my home town, for maternity leave. The child’s father is in Cape Town. We are stuck in Limpopo and is time for us to come back to Cape Town.
I would like to ask permission to travel back to Cape Town for my child to be with his father, but traveling between provinces is banned during lockdown.
Please help. The child needs both of his parents and my maternity leave is ending soon."
It's a fact that since the nationwide lockdown took effect on 26 March 2020, there has been much confusion regarding the movement of children and more recently, the movement of children between provinces.
While the latest regulations are great for parents that are separated or for those who are not in possession of a court order or parenting plan, they are confusing for parents who are together, but who are currently residing in different provinces and districts to their children.
Movement between provinces and districts is prohibited
We reached out to Di Siena Attorneys for some insight, and legal professional Kyle Ball responded, stressing that "The regulations are and remain clear on the fact that movement between provinces and districts is prohibited."
However, there are exceptions, he added. For instance, persons issued with a permit to perform essential services or parents in possession of a court order granting them permission to cross borders may collect their children.
He described how in a recent High Court judgement, parents sought to collect their children who were in Bloemfontein visiting their grandparents.
The parents approached the court for an order granting them permission to collect the children from Bloemfontein and return them to Cape Town. In this matter, the court granted them permission to travel to Bloemfontein to collect the children.
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The confusion regarding the movement of children between provinces was made worse by an alleged statement made by the minister that she is working with the police to ensure that children and parents stuck in different provinces will be allowed to travel between provinces, Ball told us.
"Unless the regulations are amended, we are of the view that parents are not entitled to move children between provinces,"he said, "unless they are in possession of a court order granting them permission to move the children between provinces."
He said the firm is not aware of any permits being issued by the police or courts that allow parents to move children between provinces.
Abide by the regulations
"Should parents have a valid reason to move a child/ren between provinces, we suggest that the parents consult with an attorney," he advised.
"If a valid reason exists and both parents are in agreement that the child/ren should be moved to his/her place of primary residence, then costs of the relevant application to obtain the court’s permission to move the child/ren between provinces should not be exorbitant," he said.
However, until the regulations are amended or parents obtain a court order granting them permission to move the children between provinces, he stressed, parents should abide by the regulations to avoid imprisonment and/or fines.
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