'No end in sight to huge DNA backlog'
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Cape Town - Civil rights group Action Society said victims of violent crime and gender-based violence (GBV) have been neglected by the DNA oversight board.
Action Society spokesperson Dr Rineé Pretorius, said that with more than 300 000 cases currently outstanding, it seemed that there was no end to the DNA backlog crisis that had been delaying justice for victims in the country.
Pretorious said they had received information from a reliable source that there were on average four pieces of evidence for most cases, which meant the actual backlog could be up to 1.2 million pieces of DNA evidence.
She said the DNA Oversight Board did 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 had only convened once since they were appointed in June last year.
She said they have requested an update from the 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 Laboratory (FSL).
“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?" asked Pretorius.
While the police did not respond to media queries by the time of publication, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said they had also raised the crisis on a number of occasions before, and had called on the police to engage with them as a province to see how they could assist in alleviating the crisis and work towards a sustainable solution.
Fritz said the National Forensic Science Laboratory remained a competency of the national department, and they had not heard anything from them in that regard.
"We are therefore also discussing the formal measures involved in lodging a formal intergovernmental dispute on three issues, which include the human resource shortages, financial under-resourcing, and the backlog at the FSL," he said.
Anti-GBV group Ilitha Labantu's spokesperson, Siyabulela Monakali, said the backlog posed a significant challenge in the fight to end the scourge, and that all mechanisms ought to be in place to help fight it and bring justice for victims and survivors.