Fight to buy newborn baby clothing during lockdown goes to ConCourt

Baby clothing was not listed as 'essential' under the original lockdown regulations, which have since been amended. Stock photo.
Baby clothing was not listed as 'essential' under the original lockdown regulations, which have since been amended. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/yelenayemchuk

Two organisations have launched an urgent application before the Constitutional Court in a bid to open shops that sell baby clothing during the lockdown.

The Tebeila Institute of Leadership, Education, Governance and Training and the African Institute for Human Rights and Constitutional Litigation want the application, filed on  Monday, to be heard on Wednesday.

The respondent is President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The applicants want the apex court to declare that Ramaphosa’s directive for the lockdown is inconsistent with the constitution to the extent that it failed to protect the interests of babies born just before or after the lockdown by ordering the closure of shops selling items for newborns.

The organisations seek an order permitting shops and businesses selling clothes, blankets, towels, beds and other accessories for newborns to reopen with immediate effect.

Pick n Pay announced it would start selling baby clothes from Tuesday while Clicks said its stores were already selling baby items.

It is understood lawyers for the president have informed the organisations that regulations published on March 18 authorising the lockdown were amended by regulations published in the Government Gazette on March 26.

The amended regulations categorised essential goods and services to include “products for the care of babies and toddlers”.

However, the organisations want Ramaphosa to make a public announcement that shops selling baby clothes and other accessories will be open from Wednesday.

In the founding affidavit in this case, Thabiso Lekoko, Tebeila's senior manager for educational programmes, said the only inquiry to be undertaken by the court was to determine whether the president’s directive was inconsistent with the constitution.

Lekoko said if the Constitutional Court did not intervene on an urgent basis, babies born during the lockdown or just before may be left without clothes to keep their bodies warm.

He said there was an urgent need for pregnant women who will deliver during the lockdown, and those who gave birth recently, to buy clothes, blankets, towels, beds and accessories for their newborns.

“Lack of clothes for newborn babies may lead to accelerating chances of newborns being infected with Covid-19 in that they may not have proper protective clothes bought for them which are necessary to cover their bodies,” Lekoko said.

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