The Russian couple whose children were removed from them almost nine years ago because of allegations of sexual exploitation are still fighting to get them back.
And, while they concede the existence and “inappropriateness” of pictures showing them naked and performing indecent acts with some of their four children, they say this is “not such an unforgivable sin that all recognition of the relationship between us must be denied”.
In June, advocate Andre Stokes, the court-appointed curator of the four children – now aged 17, 11, 10 and eight – made an application in the Durban High Court for an order terminating or suspending the couple’s parental responsibilities and rights.
This would allow the children to be adopted by the two sets of foster parents who have been caring for them virtually from the day they were removed from their parents in August 2003, when the youngest was just six days old.
Although their parents were convicted and sentenced to jail, they were freed in June 2006 when their convictions and sentences were set aside because the photographs depicting them performing indecent acts with the children were deemed inadmissible.
Stokes said in his affidavit before the court that the couple had never denied the contents of the photographs, but had “rather sought to justify them according to religious and cultural practices”.
He said the children – who had no desire to see their parents – deserved finality and it was time to start adoption hearings.
But the father, in his affidavit now filed with the court opposing Stokes’s application, says he is not surprised the children have no interest in being reunited with their biological parents.
“This is because they have never been afforded an opportunity to participate in a reunification process,” he said.
He has also launched a counter-application against the national and provincial ministers of social development, asking that they be ordered to facilitate this process for the three younger children.
He excludes the eldest child, saying he is already 18 and a major, but according to documents in the court file showing his birth date, he will only be 18 next year.
He admits he and his wife have already launched several similar applications “which have been met with vigorous opposition”, and that a number of experts have said reunification is undesirable.
“But these views have never been subjected to cross-examination to test their accuracy… the time has perhaps arrived for this.
“What the ministers and the foster parents seek to do is to preclude our children from even seeing their actual parents… we are not even to see them or they see us, even if that contact is supervised.
“And yet there can be no doubt that our children will one day ask about their parents… to deny our existence is not the appropriate response.”
He said, while not denying the existence of the “digital files”, he and his wife had been found not guilty of the charges.
The matter has been adjourned until next month for more papers to be filed.