The South African Police Service (Saps) Forensic Science Laboratory on Thursday failed to appear before the standing committee on community safety, cultural affairs, and sport to account for the backlog of DNA testing in the Western Cape.
Community safety MEC Albert Fritz said the testing backlogs were gravely concerning in the processing of DNA by the Forensic Science Laboratory and that it was placing pressure on policing service delivery, particularly in finalising rape cases.
The committee said on Thursday that there was a backlog of 172,000 cases nationally, with the Western Cape accounting for 39,400 of those.
The Western Cape’s provincial commissioner’s representative who was present at the virtual meeting said the office was due to receive reports from the provincial commander of the laboratory.
“The provincial commander of the lab is due to attend our meetings he will inform us about the backlog and what they are doing to address the backlog. We have also invited one of the senior officers to the meeting to ask him to give progress because it is a concern to us,” the representative said.
One of the committee members said that upon visiting the laboratory he was given very limited information about its operations.
The member said there was a feeling that the laboratory was not keen to share information and there was a lot of secrecy in that police department.
Recently civil rights organisation Action Society claimed that the Forensic Science Laboratory’s electronic registry system – which manages evidence for DNA analysis for Saps – had been down for almost a year.
Action Society spokesperson Dr Rineé Pretorius warned this could have an enormous impact on the processing of DNA tests, especially regarding rape cases.