Home South African New police commissioner commits to prioritising DNA backlog, tackling GBVF scourge

New police commissioner commits to prioritising DNA backlog, tackling GBVF scourge

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With ongoing concerns about the backlog in DNA testing at the police national forensic science laboratories, newly appointed police commissioner Fannie Masemola has committed to employing more scientists to get back on track.

Lieutenant-General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

WITH ongoing concerns about the backlog in DNA testing at the police national forensic science laboratories, newly appointed police commissioner Fannie Masemola has committed to employing more scientists to get back on track.

He said the machines needed to process DNA samples in the country’s forensic labs had been repaired and that more effort would go into ensuring that they remained in good working condition.

Masemola said the backlog had to some extent been reduced. He said his third priority was to fight the gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) scourge, and would ensure police and police stations were geared up to assist victims.

By September last year, the backlog exceeded 240,000 cases, and last month Police Minister Bheki Cele said it would be cleared within six months.

Ilitha Labantu spokesperson Siyabulela Monakali said the organisation was disappointed by these delays, which he said caused challenges in court case proceedings for victims and survivors of GBVF.

“We had hoped that this problem had been resolved by now and, as a result of these operational inadequacies, we have witnessed a significant delay in court proceedings and cases that have dragged on for far too long.

“We cannot be singing the same tune year in and year out. Stronger measures need to be implemented so that our systems can function optimally. DNA plays a significant role in the determination of court cases, and by not rectifying the DNA backlog we are failing victims and survivors of violence and abuse,” he said.

Action Society spokesperson Elanie van der Walt said police started implementing the overtime/shift system only in August last year. She said the society hoped Masemola would not pay more lip service, but would take action and ensure the backlog was eradicated.

Van der Walt said the society was struggling to get “real” answers from the NFSL on the number of cases at the lab, even after formal requests.

“A reasonable time frame to process forensic crime scene evidence would be anything between 30 and 60 days, however 120 and beyond is unacceptable. At the rate they are ‘processing’ it is highly unlikely that the backlog will be eradicated by August, as claimed by Cele,” she said.

Standing committee chairperson on community safety Reagen Allen said the DNA backlog crisis required urgency and should be a top priority for Masemola.

“We will continue to hold SAPS accountable through our oversight function, and eagerly await the latest quarterly report for 2022, which we are told is in the process of being compiled.

“I will be submitting further parliamentary questions on the maintenance contracts, procurement challenges, and staff shortages at the Plattekloof forensic laboratory,” Allen said.

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