Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Call for Police Minister Bheki Cele to be fired over DNA backlog crisis

By Sisonke Mlamla | Cape Argus |

Advocacy group Action Society is calling for the immediate dismissal of Police Minister Bheki Cele, accusing him of, among other things, a lack of interest in solving the DNA backlog crisis.

The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)
The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Action Society spokesperson Dr Rineé Pretorius said Cele has failed to serve the public or to help protect the most vulnerable.

Pretorius said although Cele had detailed the steps that the police would be taking to clear the massive backlog at the national forensic science laboratories, his response was too little too late.

Pretorius said that Cele, during last month’s plenary debate on the DNA crisis, confirmed that the police were already implementing overtime to clear up the backlog.

On Wednesday, however, he said they were negotiating with unions about the introduction of a shift system.

“He did not 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.

The community safety standing committee in the provincial legislature last week conducted an oversight visit to the headquarters of the forensic science laboratory, where it was revealed that the backlog in the province was 107 118 samples.

Committee chairperson Reagan Allen said there had been a 30% increase since December last year, when 74 700 unprocessed samples were reported.

“The reason behind the significant increase in the backlog is simple: sub-standard administration and a sheer lack of will from national leadership,” said Allen.

Whistle-blower and community activist Colin Arendse said he did not understand why certain lobby groups were fixated with targeting Cele.

“Why is nobody holding the National Police Commissioner, Khehla Sitole, to account? Sitole is in operational control of the police service, and the buck stops with him as the accounting officer,” said Arendse.

Police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe said an additional R250 million has been allocated to the baseline budget to prioritise DNA processing, including National Prosecuting Authority priority cases.

Mathe said R18 500 000 in overtime has been allocated to the forensic science laboratory to process the DNA backlog and to manually track and trace exhibits. She said no pieces of evidence have been lost because of the unavailability of the property control and exhibit management system.