|With more than 300 000 cases currently outstanding, it seems that there is no end to the DNA backlog crisis that has been delaying justice for victims of violent crime and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa.
Action Society has received information from a reliable source, that there are on average four pieces of evidence for most cases, which means the actual backlog could be up to 1.2 million pieces of DNA evidence.
The DNA Oversight board, chaired by Advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, does not seem to be making any progress on the backlog and other issues they have been tasked to investigate and resolve as a matter of urgency and have only convened once since they were appointed by the Minister of Police in June last year.
Action Society has requested an update from the DNA Oversight Board on the current state of affairs concerning the backlog turnaround strategy but they did not supply any answers and referred the request to the Forensic Science Lab (FSL). It seems that the DNA Oversight Board are not taking their responsibility to “promptly work towards restoring the DNA Unit’s functionality” seriously.
“We want to know why the DNA Oversight Board has not stepped in to facilitate this impasse? Why is this board not accounting to the public ̶ what exactly is their function?” asks Dr Rineé Pretorius, spokesperson for Action Society.
Government’s response in clearing the DNA Backlog is just too slow and the latest issue hindering progress is the delay in procurement of materials, as purchase orders are taking too long to be issued by the Treasury.
Pretorius continues: “We have on many occasions proposed a public private partnership. Why not launch a pilot project with a few private laboratories using the same standard operating procedures and chemistry to test the feasibility of a public private partnership? Government must make use of the expertise available in the private sector to assist them in sorting out the backlog ̶ and to ensure that there is continued functionality of systems that are crucial to achieve successful conviction of violent criminals.”
Whilst this crisis remains unresolved people are not getting their day in court, court cases are being struck from the roll due to lack of evidence and violent perpetrators walk free
“The justice system is failing victims of violent crime and GBV in South Africa, this has become a human rights violation,” concludes Pretorius.