SA Police Forensic Science Lab, Pathology Laboratory, Plattekloof. Picture: Michael Walker/African News Agency (ANA) archives
SA Police Forensic Science Lab, Pathology Laboratory, Plattekloof. Picture: Michael Walker/African News Agency (ANA) archives

GBV cases pile up as robotic machines involved in processing DNA ’have not been used’

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Jul 21, 2021

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Cape Town - Social Development chairperson in the provincial legislature Gillion Bosman says he has written to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) to intervene on the issue of unused DNA machines at the police Forensic Sciences Laboratory in the Western Cape.

Bosman said that during their visit to the lab, they found that the robotics machines used to process DNA for gender-based violence (GBV) cases had not been serviced, and thus had not been used, since 2019.

Bosman said this stemmed from a simple operational flaw at the police that has allegedly delayed procurement for the servicing of the machines.

He said Section 11 of the CGE Act stipulates that it “shall investigate any gender-related issues of its own accord or on receipt of a complaint”.

“The commission also has the power to co-ordinate such complaints with the Human Rights Commission, the Public Protector, or any other relevant authority.

’’Given the CGE’s role as a key institution in the advancement for the rights of women, it is a prime establishment to investigate the severity that the non-servicing of DNA machines has on our ability to combat the GBV crisis,” he said.

Bosman said this was critically important in the Western Cape, which has eight of the country’s GBV hotspots.

Robotics machines were used to process DNA faster than manual processing, and were mainly utilised in cases related to GBV.

Bosman said the non-servicing of the machines since 2019 has contributed to the 100 000-plus DNA backlog in the province.

“We trust that the Commission for Gender Equality will aid us in getting the national government to fast-track the servicing of these robotics machines so that DNA specimens can be processed with urgency,” said Bosman.

Anti-GBV group Ilitha Labantu’s spokesperson, Siyabulela Monakali, said the unused DNA machines posed a significant challenge in the fight to end the scourge of GBV in South Africa, which has one of the world's highest rates of GBV and femicide.

Monakali said all mechanisms ought to be in place to help fight the scourge and to bring justice for victims and survivors.

“Scenarios of this nature help to paint a picture of a government who simply drags its feet when it comes to addressing GBV,” said Monakali.

The police had not responded by the time of publication.

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