Could the overwhelming backlog of DNA tests contribute to the reliability of DNA test results

by Ms Thembi Madalane, a Legal Officer at the Commission for Gender Equality

Rape is a growing thorn in South Africa and needs to be prosecuted without fear, favour, or prejudice. The Minister of Police recently indicated that the criminal justice system has been failing to prevent rape cases from occurring, hence more women and children continue to be abused. For rape cases to be prosecuted and a conviction to be secured, reliable DNA is of utmost importance because DNA evidence is the most reliable evidence employed in a trial to corroborate the evidence presented before a court. If the DNA test results come out negative despite having sufficient evidence, it may lead to acquittal or withdrawal of the case. 

In 2022, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) held a meeting with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), wherein the NPA raised its concerns in respect of prosecution and securing convictions. It advised that in rape matters, DNA test results often come out negative, despite prosecutors having sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. Securing convictions and sentencing perpetrators serves as a much-needed deterrence and discourages other potential perpetrators from committing rape. The prompt processing of DNA samples would lessen the doubt cast on DNA evidence and assist with securing more convictions.

The opinion piece was written by Ms Thembi Madalane, a Legal Officer at the Commission for Gender Equality.