The National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board – known as the DNA Board – could not satisfactorily answer where the DNA backlog for South Africa stands during the feedback session on its Annual Report 2021/22 to the Police Committee today.
A new board was appointed in March last year and was urged to sort out the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL), which led to, among other problems, an immense DNA backlog. At the time of the appointment, the backlog stood at over 172 000 cases.
“The board was specifically appointed to sort out the DNA backlog and forensic laboratories. It is very clear that they have not succeeded in this mandate, as they cannot even answer the most basic of questions regarding their scope of work,” said Kaylynn Palm, Action Centre coordinator at Action Society. “We want to reiterate that the board should not be allowed to continue sitting around while nothing gets done.”
No one seems to know the real status of the DNA backlog. According to the official police reports to the Parliamentary Committee for Police, the backlog stood at more than 150 000 in June and grew to more than 180 000 in July of this year. However, the same department confirmed to Action Society – through a PAIA application – that the national DNA backlog stood at 143 795 in July 2022. In September, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, told the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus that the backlog status is at 88 374.
“How could it take 15 months – from April 2021 – to reduce the DNA backlog from more than 240 000 cases to around 144 000 and then suddenly, within two months, reduce it to 88 000 without any public-private partnerships in place? And the minister does not inform the DNA Board? ” Palm wanted to know. “Not only should the minister take his hat and go, but he should take the entire DNA Board with him. South Africa will not stand for incompetent office bearers any longer.”