Action Society will be lodging a complaint with the Office of the Public Protector on Friday 22 October 2021. This complaint requests the Public Protector to investigate, as a matter of extreme urgency the failure to deal with the backlog of DNA evidence in a sufficiently expeditious manner; and the failure to effectively manage and maintain the PCEM system.
“The persistent inaction and incompetence of the SAPS, from ground forces to Bheki Cele, the DNA Oversight Board and the president are continuously eroding the public confidence in South Africa’s criminal justice system,” says Elanie van der Walt, Action Society Spokesperson.
The parties responsible which must be investigated are the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele; the DNA Oversight Board; the South African Police Service (SAPS); the State Information Technology Agency SOC Ltd (Sita); and President Cyril Ramaphosa. These parties have, through their inaction, or alternatively their unduly delayed and insufficient action, allowed this status quo to persist much longer than is acceptable.
Media reports have, in the past year, brought to light the horrific fact that the SAPS have “lost” up to 8 million pieces of forensic evidence, including DNA samples crucial to determining the outcome of many rape and gender-based violence (GBV) cases. Not only are there millions of samples unaccounted for, the current backlog in DNA evidence processing stands at a staggering 300 000 cases.
Victims of violent crimes and especially GBV, have been made to look on, powerless, as the police can no longer say with certainty where the evidence crucial to the outcome of their criminal trials are. This is due to Bheki Cele not paying the agreed fees for the PCEM system in June 2020 and the subsequent shut down of the system. Due to the state’s complete lack of resolve to sort out the DNA backlog since then the current backlog will leave victims waiting for almost three years to get their DNA results in court cases ̶ that is if the cases aren’t struck from the roll in that time. This leaves victims with little or no hope of justice being served.
Van der Walt adds: “It is evident that the women and rape victims of South Africa suffer not due to a lack of legislative protection, but solely due to the abhorrent failure by government to effectively implement the legislative tools at their disposal and to adequately train and equip their law enforcement members.”
“DNA evidence is by far the most effective crime fighting tool but despite the president proclaiming war against GBV on many occasions, government and especially the SAPS are not taking any real action in sorting out the DNA backlog, which is just one of the aspects that can make a massive impact in the fight against GBV in South Africa. Thousands victims of rape and violent crime, as well as families of murder victims, are not getting their day in court. Action Society believes this has become a human rights violation which undermines South Africans’ Constitutionally entrenched rights to equality, fair administrative action as well as access to courts,” concludes van der Walt.