Activists who monitor how DNA is handled, particularly in cases involving Gender-Based Violence, say the most recent figures on backlogs do not add up.
This is after Police Minister Bheki Cele confirmed that the DNA backlogs had been reduced to 71 000 from just over 240 000. But Civic Organisation, DNA For Africa, demands a more detailed breakdown of the figures.
South Africa’s DNA backlog at Forensic Science Laboratories is a huge hurdle for those who want justice for victims of sexual offences like rape. But the police minister Bheki Cele says there has been a significant reduction.
Director of DNA For Africa, Dr Vanessa Lynch says the numbers are confusing.
“Is this the ring fence number they referring to is this the entire number of the backlog? Getting to a zero point in January, is that only the ring fence figure? So the expectation from the public is that there won’t be any more backlogs and I don’t think it’s possible. So let’s get clarity, we don’t need to fight. They are making progress, which is wonderful but maybe we have a dashboard like they did with Covid.”
Regarding the demand for a breakdown of the numbers linked to GBV, Cele is not specific but says some of the concluded DNA results have already helped with several court cases.
“The DNA that we have done, about 15 900 have helped us to link the perpetrators to those particular crimes but we have other 9 000 that we banking we haven’t found the perpetrators but we have that DNA in the bank but we are working with the NPA on this matter. The NPA would say the DNA is missing, can you fast-track? There are 16 078 cases that have been fast-tracked.“
The backlog impacts the ability of the criminal justice system to ensure justice for victims.
The video below is reporting more on GBV victims:
Cele says administrative challenges linked to 16 contracts that were not renewed led to the huge DNA backlog. Other contributing factors include staff shortages and the non-maintenance of equipment.
“To address this, contacts will be renewed 6 months in advance. The staff has been increased and are working 16-hour shifts. And more students are being trained. We have 200 students who are currently training to work in these labs. Come February, the new lab will be finished, that lab will take the pressure off Western Cape and we believe with all that capacity, we will never again go back to this situation.”
Cele has given assurance that stronger consequence management is in place to ensure accountability.
Meanwhile, experts and activists also demand the inclusion of DNA results in the quarterly crime stats.