Family on edge after Atoli’s ’killer’ freed due to DNA backlog
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Cape Town - A family is living in fear after their daughter’s alleged killer was released from prison due to the national DNA backlog of over 200 000.
The family of murdered Nomvuzo Atoli said they are constantly watching over their shoulder following the release of alleged killer Sive Mpafa from jail.
Mpafa was released on May 12 after post-mortem results had not been made available, eight months after he was arrested in a hideout in the Eastern Cape.
Earlier this month, Police Minister Bheki Cele apologised for the backlog before the National Assembly, as there are more than 200 000 outstanding results.
Atoli’s family is not alone as tens of thousands of DNA samples have piled up at the country’s National Forensic Laboratories (NFSL) due to the forensic report backlog.
Gareth Newham, the head of the Justice and Violence Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said poor leadership was to blame for the backlog.
“The issue of the laboratories is one of procurement and planning,” he said.
“Two years ago, the SAPS forensic science laboratory was able to process just under 130 000 DNA samples collected from crime scenes. Last year, this had dropped down to 29 000. This should not be happening if you had the right people fulfilling their functions at their posts.”
In arguing for his release, Mpafa’s lawyer argued that it was pointless to keep him in jail while the results are not back.
The lawyer said he questioned what if the results come back and do not link him to the crime? He argued that his client would have spent time in jail for something he did not do.
The lawyer added that the State’s inefficiency should not be made their problem. His client is currently out on bail.
Atoli’s mother Ntombizandile said they were scared of Mpafa and her other children were now living in fear.
“After his release, we had to make changes on when we go out and return to the house because we do not know what is going to happen to us.”
Atoli’s body was discovered at a landfill site in the Siyanyanzela informal settlement on August 13.
During his first appearance, the prosecution told the court that Mpafa confessed that he repeatedly hit Nomvuzo on her head with a brick.
“There is a witness who saw him but it seems all that does not count now. My daughter is 24 and my son is 17. That man might come for us. The court was told of his previous murder but they have let him out. The justice system is failing us poor people.”
At the time of his arrest, Mpafa was released from jail on another murder charge which was provisionally withdrawn due to the death of a witness.
“They should have at least asked that he changes his address, people come here and tell us where they have seen (him) and that scares us because it is the same places we go to.”
Siya Monakali of Ilitha Labantu, a local NGO which promotes women’s rights, said they were saddened by the release of the suspect.
“We are deeply concerned by the delay in the SAPS post-mortem results, as these delays will result in a delay in justice for the victim. The recent national crime statistics announced by the police minister last week revealed that the DNA backlogs experienced at the SAPS forensic laboratories have created a severe delay in GBV cases matters of this nature cannot be allowed to continue.
“What is particularly worrying is that the suspect Sive Mpafa confessed to the crime when he was arrested last year. What we fear is that with his release he will most likely re-offend as we have witnessed with many other cases in the past. We appeal to our justice system and the police to do everything within their powers to ensure justice is served,” said Monakali.