Minister of Police Bheki Cele has eventually admitted that the SAPS messed up the management of forensic DNA samples linked to violent crime in South Africa. The big question is – when is he going to do something about it?
Action Society says there’s been enough talk about the DNA backlog and it is time for Cele to roll up his sleeves and get to work. While the DNA backlog continues, victims of violent crime and GBVF are not getting their day in court or the justice they deserve.
“Minister Cele admitting that the SAPS is at fault does not solve the situation. The DNA backlog has been a crisis since June last year and he needs to stop talking about it and start sorting it out,” said Elanie van der Walt, spokesperson for Action Society.
In May 2021, Cele commented that the SAPS was already implementing overtime to clear up the DNA backlog: “Our goal is to have 40% of HR dedicated to addressing backlog and 60% of staff will handle new cases.” The backlog at that stage was confirmed at 208 291 cases.
At the Portfolio Committee on Police meeting on 24 August 2021, the SAPS confirmed that the DNA backlog will only be eradicated by 21 November 2022. This would mean that rape victims and families of murder victims could wait up to three years to get their day in court. The SAPS’s presentation during this meeting 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 cases 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.
“Besides the minister not being truthful about the real figure of the current backlog, they are also misleading the public in referring to “samples” and not cases. According to sources in the laboratory, there is anything between 1 – 12 samples of DNA evidence in any case, with an average of 4 samples per case, so the real backlog is close to 1.2 million pieces of evidence. In his latest statement he refers to 240 000 samples ̶ which we know is not true,” van der Walt continues.
“It’s time for Cele and government to sort out the DNA backlog in South Africa. In a country where GBVF has become a pandemic, the state’s inability and lack of resolve to sort out this issue is making them complicit. To make matters even worse is the fact that almost 97 000 violent criminals have been released since 2013, without submitting DNA samples. Cele, Ramaphosa, the SAPS and the ANC government are failing victims of violent crime in South Africa ̶ this is becoming a human rights violation,” she concluded.
ISSUED BY: Action Society
DATE: 20 September 2021