SAPS DNA processing: Minister Fritz calls for less talk and more action
Today, the Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, expresses concern over the lack of clarity and action around reports from SAPS on the backlog at the National Forensic Science Laboratories (NFSL). The case exhibit backlog involves cases for violent crimes such as rape, gender-based violence and murder.
In early November 2020, along with funding to the value of R250 million, SAPS presented a turnaround plan to Parliament which included the eradication of the case exhibit backlog at the National Forensic Science Laboratory within five months. Last week, it was again announced that R250 million would go towards eradicating the backlog. The case exhibit backlog has grown since November 2020.
Minister Fritz said, “we are approaching a backlog of 200 000 case exhibits. This means that tens of thousands of cases cannot move forward. And it means that victims and their families have to live with unresolved cases because the system has failed. We are failing our citizens, especially our women. This cannot go on.”
The NFSL is centralised and falls under the competency of the national Department of Police. In March this year, it was reported that the Portfolio Committee on Police asked the National Forensic Oversight and Ethics Board to assist the NFSL in overcoming its dysfunction.
Minister Fritz said, “we see again the failure of a centralized system. If the single service-provider, which in this case is the NFSL, buckles, it cripples the entire system. If, on the other hand, this competency is devolved to provinces and institutions outside of the SAPS, then, in the event that one service-provider comes under pressure, it does not compromise the system.”
As the NFSL processes DNA samples which often become evidence in criminal cases, the backlog hinders the ability of the National Prosecuting Authority to successfully prosecute violent crime, including gender-based violence and rape.
Minister Fritz concluded, “for the past few months we have heard about the plans that SAPS has to eradicate the backlog. I will be writing to the National Commissioner of Police, Lt. Gen. Khehla Sithole, to firstly seek clarity on what action is being taken to eradicate the backlog. I will then also ask for further engagement on how other institutions can be involved in the processing of DNA samples so that we arrest the backlog and ensure that this does not recur.”