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The Chamane family in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal has been unable to bury their late son since 2020 due to outstanding DNA results, only to discover this week that police had received the results a year ago, yet continued to turn them away each week when they went to inquire on the progress.
The family routinely went to the police station for the past two years, looking for Sibonginkosi Khethuthula Chamane’s DNA results, but were told they were not yet available every time.
Throughout this time Sibongankosi’s mother Khosi carried the pain of not being able to bury her son.
She said she had identified Sibonginkosi when his body was discovered two weeks after he went missing in Hammarsdale in March 2020.
“Police arrived, only to tell us that the body actually was female, even though it was my son. I followed them to the mortuary and checked Sibonginkosi’s pockets and found his bank card, with his name on it.
“The clothes and shoes were the same that he left the house wearing that day, but they wouldn’t budge… They didn’t believe a mother identifying their child. It has been unbearable,” she told The Citizen.
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Sibonginkosi, 25, worked in Durban.
He traveled home to Hammarsdale just before the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, when the pandemic started spreading in the country. After arrival, he changed his clothes and left to visit his friends in the neighbourhood on the same day.
That was the last time his family saw him alive, said his sister Nontobeko.
“When he didn’t return home that Saturday night, we thought he was with friends. We reported him missing on Monday.
“We kept searching areas here for days. Two weeks later, the search ended when his body was discovered in the bush.
“When police arrived, we identified him, but were told DNA tests were needed. So we waited.”
Police failed to even furnish the family with a case number, promising them every time that it would be sent through SMS.
Nontobeko and her mother started making the weekly trip to the police after the six month deadline for DNA results they were given by police lapsed in September 2020. The last time they went to the police station and were told the results were not yet available was last week.
Upon going to the police station again this past Wednesday, Hammarsdale police told them that the body they discovered was indeed Sibonginkosi’s. Nontobeko said the police officer showed her and her mother the positive DNA results.
Upon scrutinising the document, she discovered that the document was dated May 2021.
When she inquired from the police officer why they kept the results to themselves for so long, the officer replied that the document probably arrived the previous week.
“He just lied to my face. What the police did in Sibonginkosi’s case added more to the hurt and trauma of having to wait and not being able to bury your brother, because the police just didn’t care.“We are preparing to bury him and find closure after all this, it has been a very difficult two years, especially for our mother.”
“He just lied to my face. What the police did in Sibonginkosi’s case added more to the hurt and trauma of having to wait and not being able to bury your brother, because the police just didn’t care.
“We are preparing to bury him and find closure after all this, it has been a very difficult two years, especially for our mother.”
Police are yet to allocate a case number, or provide any updates on the investigation into Sibonginkosi’s death. The family was simply told to collect Sibonginkosi’s body on Monday.
In an emailed response to questions, KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker blamed the saga on poor communication.
He said DNA tests were essential because the body was decomposed, and that there were no features on the body that the family could identify.
“Police station management is communicating directly with the family of the deceased regarding the poor communication concerning the DNA results, as this is unacceptable,” he said.
Constable Thenjiwe Ngcobo, also a spokesperson, had tried in vain to get hold of the police station commander on Thursday. She then advised The Citizen to tell the Chamane family to lay a complaint against her colleagues at Hammarsdale.
DNA testing backlog at the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) has resulted in serious criminal cases such as murder and rape being on hold or thrown out across the country’s courts. Families are unable to bury their own while they await results.
Two of the FSL’s biggest laboratories are in Pretoria and Cape Town.
The delays have contributed to gender-based violence cases falling through the cracks as victims await justice.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his state of the nation address (Sona) in February the backlog had been reduced from 210,000 in April 2021 to around 58,000 at the time.
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