A rape suspect who was freed because of delays in DNA testing at the police National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL), raped and murdered an 11-year-old child nine months later. This emerged on Friday in a judgment handed down by KwaZulu-Natal judge Mohini Moodley, in which the rapist was convicted for his crimes and sentenced to an effective 20 years’ imprisonment.
“This horrific crime could have been prevented if the SAPS was functioning properly. The DNA backlog is not just robbing victims of justice, it’s enabling rapists and murderers to carry on with their heinous crimes. SAPS, under the leadership of Bheki Cele is becoming perpetrators of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) by not doing everything in their power to get the DNA backlog eradicated,” said Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society.
The civil rights organisation has been actively addressing the DNA backlog crisis and has gone as far as to lay a complaint with the Public Protector against, amongst others, the President and Bheki Cele for their roles in allowing the backlog to occur and not eradicating it more swiftly.
“The further trauma that victims are subjected to in courtrooms, facing their perpetrators every time, with cases being postponed continuously and eventually thrown out, is a complete miscarriage of justice. It seems that the SAPS has no political will or urgent resolve to ensure that GBVF victims get the justice they deserve.”
Another crucial piece of legislation, which is preventing justice and the fight against GBVF in South Africa, is the passing of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill B25-2021 (CO Bill). This is the Bill which relates to the DNA sampling of convicted Schedule 8 offenders, including rapists and murderers.
“Taking of DNA samples of convicted schedule 8 offenders is crucial in the fight against violent crime in our country. The CO Bill was supposed be approved by the Portfolio Committee of Police meeting today, so that it can be sent to the National Assembly, but it was postponed until next week. Although the process is being prioritised, we need to remember that violent criminals are getting released without a DNA sample to link them to previous and future crimes. Last year, almost 100 000 criminals were release without submitting a DNA sample.”
Once the CO Bill is passed it will place additional pressure on the NFSL but according to SAPS they will be able to cope with the influx of samples.
“It is highly unlikely that the DNA Backlog will be eradicated by August 2022, which is the deadline date that Cele announced recently. Various of the actions in the “turn-around” strategy that SAPS presented at the end of last year, has still not been implemented. There is no information on the public-private partnerships with the two labs in KwaZulu-Natal and Stellenbosch which would have started working exclusively on the DNA backlog in October 2021.”
According to the last feedback from the President during his SONA address, the DNA backlog has been reduced by 138 000 cases. While a step in the right direction, this is still no indication of the total number of cases outstanding and the current total number of cases in the DNA backlog remains unknown.
“Despite requesting formal feedback from SAPS on the exact number of cases and timeframes, we have not received any answers. We have also sent a request to the National Prosecuting Authority to enquire on the negative impact that the DNA backlog is having in the prosecution of GBVF cases. The current successful prosecution rate in rape cases is 8%. In a country where almost 150 rapes are reported every day, this miniscule prosecution rate is becoming a human rights violation,” Cameron concluded.