COSATU welcomes the National Council of Province’s adoption of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the National Council of Province’s of the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill.  The Federation urges the President to sign this progressive Bill into law as a matter of urgency.

The Bill is a welcome intervention that will further capacitate the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Correctional Services to collect buccal samples (DNA or saliva cotton swabs) from persons currently serving sentences for serious criminal offences (Schedule 8 offences under the Criminal Procedures Act).  Schedule 8 offences include murder, rape, serious assault, theft, kidnapping, and public violence amongst others.

The Bill addresses a retrospective gap in the previous amendment to the Act requiring SAPS to take buccal samples from all persons arrested or convicted for all criminal offences.  A well-populated DNA database is critical to enabling the SAPS to speedily identify persons guilty of criminal offences. A woefully inadequate DNA database is one of the major stumbling blocks to SAPS being able to solve many current and cold cases. This allows countless criminals to remain at large and thus able to commit further crimes.

Whilst welcoming this progressive Bill that will help further empower SAPS and Correctional Services, COSATU is disappointed that it limits the collecting buccal samples from currently serving prisoners to only persons sentenced for Schedule 8 offences.  This denies Correctional Services the opportunity to collect DNA samples from persons currently incarcerated for Schedules 1 to 7 criminal offences.

Schedules 1 to 7 criminal offences are equally serious and include such violent crimes as bestiality, incest, sexual grooming, sex trafficking, child pornography, sex with a minor under 16 years of age, gang membership, corruption, theft, fraud, and even attempted murder. There is ample evidence proving that persons who commit petty crimes soon move on to committing far more serious crimes. South Africa is inundated with high levels of crime. Countless women and children are raped. Thousands are murdered, including SAPS members. Gangs control large areas of our cities. If we are to turn the tide and win the war against criminals, then we need to fully empower SAPS. This includes a well-populated, resourced, and modern forensics database.

Government and Parliament should consider a future amendment bill to further strengthen the Act to require SAPS and Correctional Services to collect buccal samples from all persons currently imprisoned for any criminal offence, not just Schedule 8 offences. It is critical to afford SAPS such valuable intelligence. There are no such restrictions for SAPS when collecting fingerprints, taking mug shots, recording identity details, and the physical descriptions of the accused and convicted irrespective of the crime.

Government must urgently invest in and resource the SAPS to eradicate the massive backlog in forensics processing. We cannot afford to tie the hands of the SAPS in this war against criminals.  If government can afford to spend R3.5 billion a year on the SAPS VIP Protection Unit to protect just over 230 politicians and senior officials, then it can afford to spend a few million to collect buccal samples of all serving prisoners.  This will help badly overstretched SAPS members to solve outstanding cases, to then focus on other cases, to prevent future crimes and protect victims.  We cannot afford to continue to be soft on crime which bleeds the state and economy of billions and makes the lives of ordinary and in particular vulnerable South Africans a living nightmare.

A well populated DNA database, will also help protect innocent persons from being convicted of and imprisoned for offences that they did not commit.  Often such wrongly convicted persons are poor and working class persons who could not afford to hire well resourced lawyers to defend them.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks-Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687