Backlog in SAPS lab hampers fight against GBV
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DURBAN - THE Commission for Gender Equality believes the DNA test results backlog at the SAPS Forensic Services Laboratory (FSL) in KwaZulu-Natal is hampering the progress being made in fighting gender-based violence.
On Tuesday the DA in KZN revealed there was a DNA forensic backlog of 8 388 cases, most dating as far back as February last year. Responding to questions posed by the DA in the KZN Legislature, Acting Community Safety and Liaison MEC Peggy Nkonyeni said 5 400 of the cases related to sexual assault. The cases not yet analysed at FSL KZN were received between February last year and May this year.
Nkonyeni said there were 8 388 cases that needed Evidence Recovery Analysis. Of these, the positive cases would be sent to the biology section in Pretoria for DNA analysis. The normal turnaround time for results is 35 calendar days.
Nkonyeni did not respond to DA MPL Sharon Hoosen’s question on whether there had been any engagement to partner with private laboratories to address the backlog.
Nkonyeni cited that capital resources, including laboratory consumables, personal protective equipment, calibration and service maintenance of equipment, stationery and toners were behind the accumulation of cases. Regarding human resources, the MEC said the unit had the necessary competencies for analytical work. Nkonyeni said there was a need for 12 administrative officers, four supervisors, three captains and a lieutenant-colonel. She said there were no gaps in skilled staff.
Nkonyeni said not all specialised machinery was operational. Three bio cabinets, five drying cabinets, two analytical balances, nine pipettes, a water purification system, a polylight and three fume boots were awaiting servicing and calibration.
KZN provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Nonhlanhla Mkhwanazi confirmed that this was correct.
Commission for Gender Equality spokesperson Javu Baloyi said most of the cases hinged on forensic tests being completed. He called for the police to prioritise this backlog and for the commission to continue to monitor the situation.
“We hear year in and year out that there is progress; however, that progress is not being translated into numbers. We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering that families are going through. Imagine families still waiting to bury their loved ones. We had fruitful engagement with the police in the past on this matter and others,” Baloyi said.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union spokesperson Richard Mamabolo called on SAPS management to address the general uneven allocation of resources within the SAPS. He said it was important for these backlogs to be speedily resolved, not only in KZN, but across different labs, in ensuring cases were not thrown out of court.
“It will assist courts to speedily prosecute those found in the wrong. It will build much-needed confidence between communities and the legal fraternity.”