Stock Photo: PIxabay

DA call for urgent meeting to probe police laboratory backlogs

According to the DA, police in Gauteng and the Western Cape are falling way behind in their forensic DNA processing quotas.


Stock Photo: PIxabay

The Democratic Alliance (DA) have indicated that they will take up the issue of backlogs in  criminal forensic science laboratories, with caseloads piling up at a rapid rate. 

In the Western Cape alone, the backlog for cases already stands at 28 000, with reports indicating that labs in Cape Town and Tswane – the country’s primary testing centres –  unable to process DNA and other evidence. 

Convene urgent meeting

The DA said that they would write to the chairperson of the police portfolio committee, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, to urge her to take up urgent action. 

“The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the chairperson of the police committee,, 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,” said MEC for police services Andrew Whitfield. 

“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.”

Whitfield said that the inability to process DNA samples would directly obstruct the country’s efforts to quell the scourge of crime, particularly with regard to gender based violence.

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

Saps falling short of quotas

He said that if the issue was not addressed immediately, the South African Police Service (SAPS) would continue to fall short of their required quotas for processing evidence. He called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to roll his sleeves up n the matter. 

“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,” he said. 

“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.”

Despite parliament and other portfolio meetings have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, Whitfield said that it was imperrative that stakeholders convene a digital meeting to discuss the matter. 

“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,” he said.