Failure to adhere to the various curfews which have been imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown regulations, which limit the constitutional right of freedom of movement of citizens except in particular circumstances where the person has a permit to perform a service or is attending to a “security or medical emergency”, is a criminal offence, as a Centurion man found out early this month when he was arrested by SAPS.

The man had reportedly rushed out to purchase baby formula for his newborn baby when attempts to breastfeed the child were unsuccessful. He was arrested shortly before arriving home, despite explaining the circumstances and despite having both the baby formula and the receipt for it with him to prove his story.

The Constitution and the Children’s Act specifically record that the best interests of minor children are paramount. The health and wellbeing of a baby are contingent upon the care they receive, and which obviously includes in particular the need for them to be kept fed due to their particular vulnerability at this tender age.

A delicate balancing act has to be performed between the strict enforcement of the regulations, which could cross over into an abuse of power, and the necessary needs of minor children, particularly those which are more vulnerable. The regulations are meant to be a reasonable limitation of constitutional rights, but the best interests of minor children are mandated to be treated as being paramount to protect them.

This was not a situation of a father buying an older child their favourite snack item even though that child could wait until the next day for it instead. If this newborn baby was not successfully breast feed, and was unable to receive any baby formula either, then this would in any case surely constitute an emergency medical situation permissible under the regulations since the life and health of the baby are being placed at risk of being compromised.

Our offices have spoken about how some parents have used the lockdown regulations to attempt to prevent the other parent from exercising reasonable contact, and which goes against the best interests of the children. The Children’s Courts were required to deal with multiple matters like this to ensure that the best interests of those children were being upheld when one parent was clearly being unreasonable.

The charges laid against the man have been withdrawn since, but the man has indicated that he intends to take legal action over this issue. Have you heard of any similar situations of the regulations being taken too far when it comes to children?

For direct answers to your specific personal questions, please contact us directly.

Read more about our child law services.

Author – Murray Taylor

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