Following a significant backlog at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories, Police Minister Bheki Cele has apologised to victims of crime for their cases being delayed.
Cele admits that currently, the National backlog at the forensic laboratories stands at 208 291 cases – of which over 60 000 of these have been received by the laboratories but have not yet been analysed.
“36 626 are DNA related, and 82 000 of these are cases related to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. Out of the four SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories, the Gauteng province experienced the largest degree of DNA backlogs at 115%.” Gauteng is followed by the Western Cape with 113%, while KZN and Eastern Cape laboratories are at 81% and 44%, respectively.
Addressing the National Assembly on Tuesday, 11 May 2021, Cele stressed, “The backlog experienced at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories has given us sleepless nights. Equally, it has been a nightmare for everyone relying on the services of the laboratories to find justice and closure.”
According to Cele, contributing factors to the backlog included the fact that from June 2020, there were no electronic track and trace functionality available due to the discontinuation of the system by the service provider. This meant the tracking and tracing of exhibits could only be done manually.
He emphasised, “This manual work saw a rapid build-up, as forensic analysts were only processing a fraction of what could be processed with the discontinued system. Furthermore, the testing of specimens for DNA also reached a bottleneck. This was a direct result of the shortage of Quantification Kits or so-called DNA consumables.” The police minister further points out; these kits are essential for DNA testing at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories. “The reality is that this particular shortage was due to poor contract management in the SAPS.”
Admitting the backlog is unacceptable; Cele claims the SAPS is implementing an urgent turnaround plan for the sake of all victims of crime, especially women and children. He adds that all cases relating to GBV and Femicide are being prioritised based on guidance from NPA. “Our goal is to bring normality back to the operations of the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratories within the next 18 months,” the police minister claims.
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