DNA labs crisis must urgently be addressed – Andrew Whitfield

DA MP says samples at SA’s two main criminal forensic science labs are piling up at an alarming rate

DA calls for Parliament’s first urgent online committee meeting to address DNA labs crisis

19 March 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the chairperson of the police committee, Ms. Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to request an urgent online committee meeting with the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, and the South African Police Services’ (SAPS) supply chain management team. This follows reports that DNA samples at South Africa’s two main criminal forensic science laboratories are piling up at an alarming rate.

According to reports the two laboratories in Cape Town and Tshwane, have been unable to process DNA and other evidence for almost a year due to a lack of funding and supply chain challenges. At the Cape Town laboratory alone, the backlog stands at 28 000.

Blood, semen and other DNA samples are piling up which could have devasting consequences on the country’s criminal justice system particularly in cases related to Gender-Based Violence and other violent crimes.

It is therefore critical that Minister Cele accounts to Parliament, not only for the backlogs at forensic science laboratories, but also for SAPS’ failure to meet its own annual targets as it relates to the finalisation of biology DNA intelligence cases. SAPS indicated an annual performance target of 80% for the 2019/2020 financial year; however, for Q2 they only processed 74% of samples which then further declined to under 20% in Q3.

In light of the outbreak of Covid-19 and the call for social distancing, it would be irresponsible to convene such a meeting at Parliament. It is for this reason that we are calling for an online meeting by all the relevant stakeholders as a matter of urgency.

Issued by Andrew Whitfield, Shadow Minister of Police, 19 March 2020