National forensic lab's dysfunction irks parly

Parliament has raised concerns about the poor state of the national forensics laboratory.
Parliament has raised concerns about the poor state of the national forensics laboratory.
Image: Moderna Inc/Handout via REUTERS/ File photo

The parliamentary committee on police has lambasted the current state of dysfunction of the police forensic laboratories that has resulted in the backlog of 172,000  cases awaiting DNA results.

The committee yesterday said the national forensic oversight and ethics board needed to urgently assist in finding solutions to the current dysfunctional state of the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL) .

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said over the past two years the committee had highlighted concerns about the backlog which has a direct impact on the entire criminal justice value chain.

“We know that the board is reasonably new, but the current dysfunctional state of the NFSL demands action to aid the criminal justice system to deliver on its mandate. The fight against the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV) ,is compromised by the inability of the Forensic Science Laboratory to timeously conclude their analysis. The fight against GBV requires a Forensic Science Laboratory functioning optimally to ensure that prosecutions are scientific, evidence-based and timely,” said Joemat-Pettersson.

On Monday Sowetan reported that the backlog of DNA results was not only frustrating prosecutors and law-enforcement agencies, it had also resulted in some long standing court cases of rape, murder and gender-based violence remaining unresolved and some victims still to be buried.

In Mpumalanga alone the delay has led to about 80% of criminal cases not being concluded . One of the cases is the murder case in Masoyi village, near Hazyview, where two of the five victims of an alleged serial killer have not been buried because their DNA results have not been received from the lab.

In Reiger Park, Boksburg a mother of a two-year-old suspected rape survivor said the mission to seek justice for her daughter has been delayed due to the long wait for DNA results.

The mother said she has been waiting for DNA results samples since her child was allegedly raped by her ex-boyfriend in October 2019.

"At the time the suspect was arrested but his case was struck off the roll due lack of evidence. When I call the police about the outstanding evidence from her blood and clothing, I was told the results are still pending from the SAPS laboratory," she said.

In another incident Tony Mziza who was brutally killed last year march in Putfontein by his landlord and later burnt before his body was dumped at a field near Daveyton has also not been buried because of the DNA backlog.

Joemat-Pettersson said another serious concern is that because of delayed laboratory results families sometimes have to wait for two years to bury their loved ones who were victims of crime.

"This is highly reprehensible and unacceptable," she said.

The committee welcomed the board’s plan of action, which focuses on contract management, reduction of DNA case backlogs, establishment of a forensic investigative unit, software acquisition and resolving inadequate operational budget, among other things.

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