According to the South African Police Services (SAPS) the DNA backlog will only be eradicated by 21 November 2022. This was discussed on the Portfolio Committee on Police (PCOP) parliamentary meeting held on 24 August 2021.
“We agree with the questions raised by various members of the committee about the actual progress made by the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) to eradicate the DNA backlog. It was also pointed out that the South African Police Services (SAPS) don’t use the same method of reporting, which makes it impossible to track the progress. The SAPS is not taking the DNA backlog crisis seriously – they have only given feedback to the PCOP once, despite Minister Cele’s commitment in March to give progress reports on a monthly basis,” said Elanie van der Walt, spokesperson for Action Society.
The SAPS presentation was questioned by various members of the committee, including the chairperson Ms. Tina Joemmat-Peterson who commented: “It feels like the SAPS is misleading us. The backlog is growing – it has not been reduced. We cannot say that we are fighting for women and fighting against gender-based violence and the cases are not brought to court.”
Concerns were raised about the true figure of the DNA backlog, as well as the amount of new DNA samples registered between April and August 2021. Following the SAPS presentation – where the figures didn’t seem to add up – questions from members on the actual figure were ignored, so the real number could be anything between 237 000 and 300 000 cases.
One positive outcome that the SAPS could report on, was the finalisation of public-private partnership contracts with two laboratories. National Commissioner Sithole confirmed that the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) based at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the
Central Analytical Facility (CAF) at the University of Stellenbosch, will be ready to start working on backlogged DNA samples from 1 October 2021. According to Sithole, these labs have the capacity to handle 5 000 cases per day. Once the labs are operational, they will be exclusively dealing with the backlogged DNA samples and the NFSL will only be handling new cases.
“Action Society is very pleased that the government has eventually actioned public-private partnerships with laboratories. If the information is correct and they can process up to 5 000 samples per day it will mean the backlog could technically be eradicated by early 2022. The question remains: why do the police themselves then only commit to a completion date of November next year – this makes us doubt their information. What is the real number of backlogged cases and will these public-private partnerships be as effective as it seems on paper? It seems only the SAPS know the real answer,” concludes van der Walt.
ISSUED BY: Action Society
DATE: 24 August 2021