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Western Cape forensic science lab purchases DNA processing equipment to aid with backlog

The Forensic Science Laboratory in Plattekloof deals with a variety of forensic disciplines, and evidence for crime and court cases. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The Forensic Science Laboratory in Plattekloof deals with a variety of forensic disciplines, and evidence for crime and court cases. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 17, 2022

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Cape Town - The police are making inroads in ensuring that the DNA backlog at the Plattekloof Forensic Science Laboratory is cleared.

A parliamentary written response by the former acting Community Safety MEC Anroux Marais to a question by then standing committee chairperson Reagen Allen revealed that the Western Cape FSL had purchased DNA processing equipment.

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The two Genetic Analysers instruments for the CI lane System to the value of R4.5 million were expected to be delivered after April 20. However, questions to the police on whether the equipment was delivered remained unanswered.

Furthermore, in response to Allen’s questions regarding the laboratory’s commitments to improve the maintenance of its equipment, the police indicated that three maintenance contracts were in place to meet the maintenance requirements.

The police indicated that the contract for the liquid handler was awarded and signed in September last year, while the contract for the Reference Index (RI) Lane System instruments (Genetic Analysers and 9700’s) was awarded and signed in November.

The contract for the Crime Index (CI) Lane System instruments (Genetic Analysers, 9700s, 7500s and Automate express instruments) was awarded in May last year. All the contracts are valid for three years.

By September last year, the backlog exceeded 240 000 cases and in the same period over 36 647 sexual offence cases were reported to be outstanding in the province due to the backlog of DNA specimens not being processed at SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL).

Action Society spokesperson Rentia Mynhardt said the organisation was not aware that the problem concerning the DNA backlog has been resolved. She said there was a promise that the backlog will be cleared in early next year.

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“No one knows what the actual progress is that has been made on this. Action Society is concerned that the actual figures are not given through at all – SAPS keeps on referring only to the original 300 000 cases.

“This does not include new cases every single day. Another concern is that no PPPs (public-private partnerships) have been announced yet, although Police Minister Bheki Cele has promised that partnerships with certain universities will be put in place,” she said.

Ilitha Labantu spokesperson Siyabulela Monakali said while the organisation welcomed the decisive action taken to purchase the DNA processing equipment, the backlog remained a concern.

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“We appeal to the police minister to ensure that the process is properly monitored to safeguard against any mismanagement of this precise equipment and also appeal to him to ensure the fast-tracking of the processing of DNA,” he said.

Newly appointed MEC for Community Safety Reagen Allen said: “Between September and December 2021 we saw a significant drop in the backlog.

“We’re awaiting the latest statistics from the SAPS, as this will indicate if progress is being made in addressing this issue. We will continue to engage the SAPS in our oversight role to ensure that justice is not denied to our victims of crime.”

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