The plight of mothers who have either given birth to their babies during the lockdown or are still to give birth is to be decided in the Constitutional Court.

The mothers say they have nowhere to buy baby clothes and related products.
Following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a lockdown and that all stores, except those selling food and emergency supplies would be closed, mothers who gave birth shortly after the lockdown came into effect, and those going into labour soon are left out in the cold.

The Tebeila Institute of Leadership and the African Institute for Human Rights and Constitutional Litigation are taking up the plight of these mothers and mothers-to-be.

They are asking the apex court’s permission to approach it directly with this urgent issue, and subsequently to issue an order that stores selling baby goods may operate with immediate effect during the lockdown.

The applicants said they have no issue at all with the measures put in place by Ramaphosa regarding the lockdown.

They only want an order that businesses selling baby clothes, blankets and accessories for newborns be allowed to be open, while they (the mothers) adhered to all other safety measures.

Thabiso Lekoko, a senior manager at Tebeila in Limpopo, said in an affidavit submitted to the court that the organisation had been approached by worried pregnant women and mothers of newborns, as they were concerned that they are unable to buy clothes and related goods for their newborns and babies expected to be born during this period.

The application is brought in terms of constitutional rights as it affects the best interests of children.

Thus, the applicants said, the Constitutional Court should grant them direct access to this court.

Lekoko stated tif the apex court did not intervene on an urgent basis, the babies born during this time or yet to be born might be left without clothes to keep them warm.

There is also an urgent need to buy newborn baby blankets, towels and baby beds.

Lekoko said the lack of clothes might lead to these newborns contracting Covid-19, if they don’t have proper clothing to cover them.

She added it was not known how long the lockdown would last, thus it was urgent these newborns received the necessary clothing and other items to protect them from the cold.

Many pregnant women did not buy clothes prior to the birth of their babies, as they did not know they would give birth during this time.

Others did not have the financial means to buy clothes and accessories prior to the lockdown.

Lekoko said that especially as it was not known how long the lockdown would last, it was important that those mothers who are due to deliver their babies, even after the 21-day lockdown – or the date to which it might be extended – be able to buy baby clothes.

She stated the Constitutional Court should entertain this application because by the time it is heard in the lower courts, the lockdown might be over.

It is not clear when the application is to be heard, as the Constitutional Court must first rule on whether it will entertain the application.

Ramaphosa, who is cited as the only respondent, must also indicate whether he will oppose it.