POLICE Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday apologised in the National Assembly for the now more than 200 000 outstanding DNA result backlogs in forensic science laboratory services.
Cele made the apology during a debate sponsored by the DA on the crisis of DNA crisis.
The outstanding DNA results were standing at 172 787 as at February and dated back as far back as April 2019. The backlogs now stand at 208 291.
Speaking during the debate, Cele said the backlogs had given them sleepless nights.
“It has been a nightmare for everyone relying on services of science laboratories to find justice and closure.”
He put the blame squarely on the shortage of consumables and poor contract management in SAPS.
The minister outlines several measures put in place to address the backlogs, including procuring and allocating more money for consumables, developing a track-and-trace system of specimens, hiring more personnel and making provision for overtime work.
Cele also said they have strengthened internal controls to eliminate corruption, and implement management of contracts and developing early warning systems.
“We want to assure this august House and the rest of the nation that while we are not out of the woods yet, we are moving toward improvement. We are aware of the significant impact the backlogs and delays have caused,” he said.
“We remain confident that our interventions are aimed at regaining the public confidence and equally restore organisational reputation,” he said.
DA MP Andrew Whitfield said the debate was not about politics, but it was about executive accountability.
“The minister has failed so spectacularly to resolve a crisis which he has caused, the buck today must stop with the president,” he said.
Police portfolio committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said fighting crime in South Africa required all in the government, Parliament and communities to do their part to make the country safer.
“We require a workable partnership to make sure criminals are prevented from committing crime. We must ensure they will be traced and there would be consequences for their action,” she said.
However, she took a swipe at Whitfield for introducing the debate saying his action was opportunistic as the crisis was addressed in 2019.
EFF MP Naledi Chirwa said torturous men were not behind bars because the government withheld DNA evidence in the fridges and would do so for years to come.
“The ANC government continues raping and getting away with it,” she said.
IFP’s Zandile Majozi said the backlogs were a miscarriage of justice for over 150 000 people unable to have cases heard or concluded because of mismanagement and poor leadership.
“There are murderers and rapists roaming our communities and terrorising citizens with impunity. They operate without consequence,” Majozi said.
Freedom Front Plus leader Petrus Groenewald said while President Cyril Ramaphosa had urged opposition parties not to get involved in ANC internal matters, “sort your difference so that you can focus on problems of South Africa”.
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said the backlogs were empowering murderers and rapists.
He said the backlogs were putting the lives of victims on hold and perpetrators could not be identified.
“This miscarriage of justice must be addressed urgently. All vacancies must be filled and consumable be made available at forensic laboratories,” Meshoe said.
UDM’s Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said the backlogs were an indication that all was not well within the SAPS.
“This has crippled crime-fighting capacity. This has enormous impact on rape and GBV cases in South Africa,” Kwankwa said.