Remarks by the Minister of Police, E.N. Mthethwa, MP at the official opening of the Forensic Science Laboratory, Plattekloof, Cape Town
17 Jul 2012
Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Makhotso Sotyu
Western Cape MEC for Community Safety, Mr Dan Plato
National Commissioner of Police, General Riah Phiyega
Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Ms Annalise Van Wyk
SAPS Senior Management present
Local and International Forensic Experts present
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
On the occasion of our Budget Vote in Parliament, we declared 2012 as the Year of the Detectives. The declaration means that our goals and focus must be informed by a clear programme of action, which translates to better training and improving our investigative capabilities.
At the time, we said, quote: “the progress we have made, the victories we continue to score are reflective of the vision of the South African citizens’ commitment and determination to the cause of peace and social progress. This reflection does not mean we are celebrating the victories against crime, but are encouraged.”
Over the past three years we have noted significant declines in various crime categories. Such reductions were to a greater part, achieved as a result of continued passion and commitment from the many men and women in blue, who selflessly put the nation’s safety above their own personal interest.
However, the winning of war against crime demands more than just passion. It demands a systematic understanding and implementation of detailed plans and techniques in the actual conditions facing us. It demands a sober assessment of the obstacles in our way. It demands a clear programme of action that involves all our different units working together, towards a common vision.
We are reflecting on this analogy with an objective of emphasising the point that through working together, we shall continue to score victories in the fight against crime. Equally, we are cognisant that more still needs to be done.
We are all gathered here this morning, as we officially open this state-of-the-art Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), which must become an additional and useful arsenal to our crime-fighting programmes. We are further conveying a message to the citizens of our land, that the ANC-led government continues to deliver on its promises, in so far as it relates to safeguarding its citizens.
We have tasked the police management to focus on these priorities because we have the confidence that they are achievable. Through proper planning and coordination, nothing is impossible. While we shall be reflecting on the challenges that our Division: Forensic
Services underwent in the past, it is equally important that we highlight some of the successes, under the leadership of Lieutenant General Phahlane; in our pursuit to achieve the strategic objectives as set out.
It cannot go unnoticed that the division has, for the past two consecutive years received acknowledgments, commendations and accolades from various authorities – including the Portfolio Committee on Police, on their achievements, particularly given the importance of this unit in the fight against crime.
Some of you would recall that this division was even referred to as a ‘backlogs division.’ There were unsatisfactory reports around how courts could not finalise cases on the court roll, including the reasons for postponement of cases in criminal courts and all these were attributed to the forensic delays. What these delays implied were that the criminals who should have been in jail, unfortunately walked scotts-free.
We could not allow the situation to continue and that is why we had to sit down with management and outline a clear plan to ensure we address the challenges within. The importance of this division is realised when it comes to our goal around convictions. The environment of science itself implies that for any conviction there has to be empirical evidence because in a court of law, word of mouth does not guarantee convictions.
But we have seen a positive turn-around strategy. The FSL has reported an overall 63% increase in the total of cases received for the 2011/ 12 financial year. In addition to a 66% reduction in overall backlog for the 2010/ 11 financial year, the FSL has reported a 30% reduction in backlogs for the 2011/ 12 financial year. For the reporting periods, backlog was defined as cases finalised in more than 28 working days upon receipt at the laboratory.
When Cabinet took a decision to review and map forward a new cluster approach, the decision was aimed at a collaborative effort to facilitate amongst others, an effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Since then there has been some improvements albeit still some challenges in some areas. Government is working around the clock to close all loopholes. The work of tightening up the whole criminal justice chain is progressing apace.
To this effect, the Division: Forensic Services, as one of the major contributors to the success of the CJS, set various objectives to underpin the CJS programme within the South African Police Service (SAPS). These include the recruitment, selection and appointment of employees to ensure the expansion and decentralisation of forensic services.
It had been a tragedy of history in our country that, for whatever reason, some of the resources whether it be police stations, were built in urban cities and that to a greater part, there was a neglect of rural areas. Forensics was no exception.
In correcting this past, this crucial division is now contributing towards the change in service delivery by putting in place a forensic awareness drive. This programme now extends outside the borders of the cities to the rural areas so that even those citizens, who are in remote areas, benefit.
We have been informed that analysts are now recruited from the provinces of their origin, and where not practical, to the laboratory closest to where they come from. This is also in an effort to decentralise the forensic science services, bringing them closer to the communities where such services are needed.
Following the recruitment of personnel, the division is now moving towards skills capacity and empowerment. To this end, R63 million was set aside for the 2011/ 2012 financial year for the establishment and enhancement of skills within the forensic services to include the criminal records and crime scene management environment. There can never be any quality output from the forensic laboratory without the equivalent quality input from the crime scene environment.
The division has further identified key areas in which the enhancement of skills is necessary, and that includes the incorporation of basic forensic services training in the Basic Training Learning Programme for Police, and the Detective Learning Programme. In this financial year, R35 million has been earmarked for all training and development as per training plan for the division, and that includes enhanced crime scene investigation and processing expertise.
Having invested so much into skills development, advancement and/or enhancement of expertise, it becomes critical to then retain such. We have engaged and requested the National Police Commissioner to look into the practicalities of implementing a retention strategy. We believe this will not only afford us a platform to retain our expertise, but also to improve the experience levels of our analysts, to allow them to be comparable with their peers within the forensic field internationally.
For this reason we are pleased that the department has embarked on processes to establish partnerships with various tertiary institutions across the country, as well as other accredited institutions internationally. This is undertaken in pursuit of developing a recognised tertiary qualification in relation to forensic science expertise.
We are unfortunately faced with the reality that there is currently no tertiary institution in the country, which provides a fully-fledge forensic science qualification yet, through which the graduates can be recruited and placed in the field with minimal in-house training, if at all required.
We are encouraged that amongst our guests today are representatives from various tertiary institutions, who are amongst the partakers of the envisaged goal in this regard. Also with us today are representatives of some of international organisations, who in one way or the other are in partnership with us, to enhance the services of the forensics.
We also want to improve our efforts in providing support to the criminal investigation and judicial process through the detection, collection and use of quality forensic evidence. Through the fingerprinting database and with closer cooperation with other government entities, we believe this will make a positive impact in the fight against crime.
This cooperation has made it possible that the identification can be done within a short time frame, making it possible to contribute towards expediting the cases requiring forensic expertise through the criminal courts.
As government, we have also begun to review and place before Parliament the Criminal Procedure (Forensic Amendment) Bill. This Bill is being processed in two phases, the first phase being the fingerprinting part, which has already been passed into law in September 2011 while the second aspect relates to the DNA Bill, which is still in process.
There are very critical expectations by not only the oversight body on the implementation aspects of the Bills, but the our communities are eagerly awaiting not only the passing of this legislation, but that it must be fully and effectively implemented. After all, our philosophy is premised along more action and less talk when it comes to fighting crime.
While the legislative processes are underway, we have also noted some in society who attempted to divert the core discussion around this Bill. There were some calls around the privatisation of FSL. Let us put it on record today: government has no intentions to privatise the forensic laboratories. This decision is further informed by empirical research as well as our international counterparts, who concur with us that privatisation is not a viable option.
We remain convinced that those who spearheaded this call do not have the best interest at heart for the improvement in the reduction of crime, rather influenced by narrow self-interests. Futile arguments have been advanced by some, particularly targeting the DNA database, where they had already identified a “niche” for potential privatisation in the name of reduction of backlogs within our labs.
Let this laboratory become a value-add in our efforts of fighting crime. What we are witnessing today is how modernised systems coupled with the equipped human resources can blend together and contribute towards an improved turn around time in terms of processing forensic case work.
Eradication of women and child abuse remain central to our fight against crime. This requires deliberate programmes of education and other measures to transform gender and family relations, the retraining of justice administrators and the police, and the provision of the necessary resources to ensure safety and restore the dignity of the victims.
Whilst we are aware that this issue cannot be addressed by the police alone, we equally recognise that the police have a central role to play in addressing such crimes. The re-introduction of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences units throughout the country over the last financial year provides us with a platform on which to ensure crimes against women and children are adequately addressed by the police.
To the police management, the daunting task facing you is to ensure that this state-of-the-art building must not become a white elephant. It must contribute towards a forensic service which inspires confidence throughout all spheres of government. For all the human capital and infrastructural investment that we have put on this building, we shall be expecting nothing less that qualitative and excellent service.
Over the past two years, we have noted some commendable progress and we would like these to be sustained. Amongst the challenges this division experienced, were labour imbalances that threatened the stability of the environment, the status of the backlogs and the impact backlogs had in finalisation of cases by the courts.
But today we are satisfied with progress attained, including the revision and the purification of the organisational structure to be in line with international practices with regard to forensic services. We have also seen the re-engineering of analytical processes, which had a positive effect on the turn-around times and subsequent eradication of long-term backlogs.
Crime affects all the people of our country across class and colour. It is our common enemy. For this reason, we remain firmly committed to strengthening partnerships with the people, to ensure the attainment of the goal of peace, security, and comfort for all.
We must win the battle against violent crime, especially against women, children and the elderly. These crimes inflict the deepest violations of people’s rights, going to the extent of violating even the right to life. Such crimes are committed by people who have lost all their sense of humaness. To them, we must show no mercy. As society, we must also work with our police in the apprehension of criminals and not harbour them.
The progress that is reflected within the forensic services did not come coincidentally. It came about through commitment and working smart there is nothing beyond scientific proof. The journey that we have thus far travelled gives us confidence that we shall reach our goal of a society that is free from crime, a society that cares.
I thank you.
For enquiries, please contact:
Cell: 082 045 4024
Issued by: South African Police Service
17 Jul 2012
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