Government and SAPS dragging feet to get Convicted Offenders Bill on track
While Parliament is still in recess and the South African Police Services (SAPS) is not showing any real effort to get their systems in place to take DNA samples of released prisoners, rapists on the other hand are not taking a quick break from targeting innocent women and children daily.
The DNA Act (No. 37 of 2013) came into operation on 31 January 2015. It provided for buccal (saliva) samples being taken from all convicted Schedule 8 offenders (rape, murder, human trafficking, robbery, and culpable homicide) for the purposes of forensic DNA analysis. This procedure was implemented for a period of two years from the date of commencement of the Act for the transition to take place, who nobody thought would not be possible. The two-year period, however, expired on 26 January 2017. The sampling process of convicted Schedule 8 offenders had to stop because it was no longer provided for in law. The DNA Act had to be amended in order for SAPS to proceed with the sampling process, which only happened after five years.
During this five-year period 96 875 prisoners have been released without their DNA samples being taken, with some of these offenders most definitely repeating previous offences, seeing that South Africa has one of the highest rates of reoffending (recidivism) in the world. Because no DNA samples were taken on their release, repeated crimes cannot be traced.
Quarterly crime statistics released in February this year revealed that 11 315 people were raped between October and December 2021, which mirrors the problem South Africa is dealing with concerning gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).
There is still a DNA backlog of 58 000 cases which delays justice for victims of GBVF. Although President Ramaphosa announced that from 31 January 2022 a suspect arrested and charged with a Schedule 8 offence will be required to provide a DNA sample (uploaded onto the National Forensics DNA database), it is not executable because of SAPS not having the capacity to process these DNA samples. This has a snowball effect which increases the backlog even more.
“The enactment of legislation that protects victims of abuse and make it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice,” were words spoken by Ramaphosa where exactly the opposite currently is true.
Monster serial rapist Sikhangele Mki is an example of someone originally convicted only of common assault. When his DNA sample was taken during the two-year period when the DNA Act was operational, his DNA profile linked him to over 30 rapes whereafter he could be sentenced to multiple life sentences. If this did not happen Mki would have been out on the streets after two years, raping again without any DNA trace.
“Action Society aims to give a voice to the voiceless and we will keep fighting for this bill to be successfully implemented and executed for justice to prevail. Every campaign Action Society is running brings injustice to light. The recent success we had in being part of the Christine Robinson case where GBV was heavily punished is only one example to prove this,” said Ian Cameron, director of community safety at Action Society.
“Victims have to be protected and perpetrators must be punished. For this to realise systems urgently need to be put in place, but at this stage SAPS and government, who clearly do not have that end in view, are working against us and against justice.”
Another concern for Action Society is the National Register for Sex Offenders (NRSO), a record of names of those found guilty of sexual offences against children and mentally disabled people. Employers in the public and private sectors, such as schools and hospitals, have the right to check the register to ensure the person they are hiring is fit to work with children or those who are mentally disabled. This register is not kept up to date, causing disaster where sex-offenders are appointed at institutions such as schools.
In November 2021, after the Local Government Elections, Action Society demanded the immediate resignation of elected Kannaland Mayor. In 2008 while employed as Kannaland’s mayor, Donson was convicted of statutory rape and indecent assault of a 15-year old girl in 2004.
“If the NRSO was up to date and consulted as it should be, Donson would not have been appointed in the first place.”
According to Cameron the importance of all DNA-concerned documents and procedures being in place and up to date cannot be emphasised enough. “Competent law enforcement and a judicial system that puts victims first and ensures that justice is served are what Action Society stand for. South African government and SAPS must get their priorities right and stop being another enemy for innocent women and children. We agree with DNAforAfrica when they say Justice is in our DNA.”