By Kaya 959 News
A KwaZulu-Natal family is unable to bury their loved one due to a backlog in DNA test results at the SAPS Forensic Services Laboratory.
Sphamandla Khumalo died in a shack blaze at the Malacca Road informal settlement last year.
Speaking to the Daily News, Khumalo’s mother said the family was not coping.
She said they were desperate to bury her 32-year-old son. Tholakele Gwala said the police told the family that the matter was out of their hands.
She said they were worried that they might have to wait a few years.
“My son was the breadwinner. We are still mourning his death. To know that he is not given a final send-off is worrying,” she said.
Thousands of cases still to be processed
The province alone has a backlog of more than 8000 forensic cases – dating as far back as February 2020.
A written parliamentary reply by Community Safety MEC Peggy Nkonyeni to questions posed by the DA, revealed that the FSL has to tackle 8 388 cases in KZN.
The DA’s Sharon Hoosen said Nkonyeni’s reply revealed that of the 8 388 cases, 5 400 relate to sexual assault.
“The provincial unit has 20 staff vacancies and the backlog comes despite a supposed 35-calendar day turnaround for results,” she said.
“The DA regards SAPS inability to process this critical evidence as a crime against humanity. Continued delays in DNA testing will delay justice for the thousands of victims of violent crimes,” she said.
DNA backlog crisis
Hoosen said attention must be given to filling vacancies, prioritising training for police officers and detectives, increasing visible policing and ensuring that SAPS vehicles are roadworthy.
“SAPS can no longer delay tackling the country and our province’s DNA backlog crisis. It requires absolute urgency,” she said.
In the Western Cape, there is a backlog of more than 100 000 cases.
Advocacy group, Action Society, has slammed police head General Bheki Cele for being “all talk and no action” over the country’s ongoing DNA backlog woes.
According to spokesperson, Dr Rineé Pretorius, Cele had in May confirmed that police will work overtime to clear up the backlog.
“He said the goal is to have 40% of HR dedicated to addressing the backlog and 60% of staff will handle new cases. However, he recently said they were busy with union negotiations regarding the introduction of the new system,” she said.
SAPS working to trace forensic exhibits
Pretorius said Cele failed to comment on the current situation or if any progress has been made since May, when the backlog was a staggering 208,000 cases.
She said Cele’s concerns did not bring relief to victims and families waiting to bury their loved ones.
“It is apparent that the minister has no sense of urgency to resolve the ongoing DNA backlog crisis,” she said.
SAPS spokesperson, Brigadier Vish Naidoo, said police were working to track and trace forensic exhibits and the system was up and running.
He said nearly 25 000 new exhibits had been loaded onto the new Forensic Exhibit Management system.
Naidoo said DNA samples required for court cases especially related to gender-based violence cases as well as DNA samples needed for identification of persons for burials are being prioritised.
“The workforce of the forensic analysts has been adjusted to allow for overtime work,” he said.