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Interventions to tackle GBV-related DNA cases at laboratories

May 8th 2021 at 13:23
By: SAnews

President Cyril Ramaphosa says government has set in motion interventions to reduce the number of DNA cases at forensic laboratories, as part of efforts aimed at reducing the gender-based violence cases backlog.

GBV-related DNA cases backlog

High number of finalised case dockets

The President said this when he fielded oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday. “A number of interventions have been implemented by the SAPS to address the DNA backlogs.”

“These include, amongst others, improving supply chain processes, the procurement of consumables at a cost of R4.2 million, by way of a deviation from National Treasury, for the prioritisation of cases identified by the National Prosecuting Authority, and the filling of vacant posts in Forensic Science Laboratories,” he said. 

The President said this as the DNA case backlog is linked to a high number of finalised GBV-related case dockets. 

Dockets outstanding for more than a year

During the course of the fourth quarter of the 2020/21 financial year, the South African Police Service finalised 3 534 dockets for crimes against women, which had been outstanding for more than a year.

This constitutes 42% of the total number of 8 289 dockets that had been outstanding for more than a year.

“While this is welcome progress, our ability to effectively investigate and prosecute gender-based violence is severely hampered by the backlog in DNA cases at forensic laboratories.

“According to the South African Police Service, 2 556 DNA cases related to gender-based violence were finalised between 18 February and 25 April this year. As at 25 April this year, there were more than 83 000 GBVF-related cases in process, and more than 77 000 cases were older than 35 calendar days”.

“This is clearly unacceptable and, if allowed to continue at this pace, will severely hamper the fight against gender-based violence.”

R250 million allocated to operational baseline budget

The President said as part of interventions to address the DNA case backlog, an additional R250 million was allocated to the operational baseline budget to address challenges in forensic laboratory services.

He said the SA Police Service has also initiated the bidding process to award all outstanding contracts for the consumables that are critical in addressing the DNA backlogs.
“In this regard, the SAPS developed a DNA Backlog Recovery Plan, which is a multidisciplinary intervention within and outside of the South Africa Police Service. 
“This Action Plan, with clear timeframes, was presented to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee in March this year.”
President Ramaphosa said a new Forensic Exhibit Management system was implemented on 6 April 2021 to enable effective tracking and tracing of samples received at the different laboratories.
“Regular meetings are also being held between the SAPS, the Department of Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority to assist the NPA with the prosecution of these cases, and to fast-track DNA analysis reports of court cases that have been long outstanding.”

IPID finds ‘no misconduct’ in using a water cannon on SASSA beneficiaries

May 8th 2021 at 12:42

A report by IPID has found that there was no misconduct when police used a water cannon on hundreds of people queueing outside the SASSA offices in Bellville in January.

IPID report into SASSA water cannon

No misconduct by police

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has found that no misconduct was committed by SAPS when a water cannon was used on a crowd of social grant recipients queueing outside the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) in Bellville earlier this year.

In the report, seen by GroundUp, IPID said that “there were no lesser interventions at the disposal of SAPS” to disperse a crowd refusing to move and that no complaints were received of injuries from the incident. It also said the water was specifically sprayed in the air and not directly at people and only for a short time.

But the Western Cape legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Development has requested that SAPS and IPID be called to account for what it believes is a “disgraceful” report which “exonerates all involved in water-bombing vulnerable SASSA clients”.

What happened at SASSA in January?

On 15 January, the police (SAPS) were called to help with crowd control as hundreds of people were queuing outside SASSA in Bellville to renew their temporary disability grants.

SAPS then called in the public order police (POP) to help, who decided to use a water cannon to control the crowd. In February, provincial Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz asked IPID to urgently investigate the incident.

The incident also coincided with a visit from Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, who on the day said that “the situation was really getting out of hand and people were refusing to social distance and queue”.

Crowd control

According to IPID’s report, a SASSA official initially sought assistance from law enforcement due to their inability to control the crowd as people were not cooperating with SASSA staff and security.

Abigail Peters, Black Sash Paralegal Fieldworker, was told by a beneficiary who was queueing on that day that there were grant beneficiaries who still queued even after being drenched in water, including elderly people.

In a recent statement, Fritz expressed disappointment with IPID’s investigation and has said that someone must be held accountable for the incident.

“What kind of society uses state resources to treat vulnerable people, SASSA beneficiaries, like this? The IPID report seems to show that our state institutions allow for this”.

‘Oblivious to the struggles’ of the vulnerable

Similarly, Gillion Bosman, Chair of the Western Cape legislature’s Standing Committee on Social Development, said in a statement that the IPID report is “oblivious to the struggles that vulnerable residents face in this country every day”.

Bosman has requested that the matter is tabled at the next briefing with SAPS and that IPID be asked to be present.

“It is beyond disgraceful that we have an IPID report which exonerates all involved in water-bombing vulnerable SASSA clients. Minister Lindiwe Zulu was on site when this happened, and yet no head rolls,” said Bosman.

Now read: MEC wants Ipid to probe Sassa water cannon incident

Coldplay beam new song into space during chat with French astronaut

May 7th 2021 at 15:17

Coldplay gave new meaning to the idea of a single launch, playing the new song “Higher Power” for the first time during a video link-up with French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Pesquet spoke with the British group from the International Space Station. 

Sending music to the Space Station

“We sent you some music, because right now we aren’t able to play for anyone on Earth, so we thought we would just play for you,” singer Chris Martin said before playing the song late Thursday.

“This is the premiere for the whole galaxy,” he added, saying the song was about “trying to find the astronaut in all of us, the person who can do amazing things.”

The band took the opportunity to quiz Pesquet about his time on the station, including how he unwinds. 

“In the evenings when everyone goes to bed […] I put on my headset and play some music and just float. It’s really cool, you feel completely free,” Pesquet said. 

Asked by guitarist and sci-fi fan Guy Berryman what movies get wrong about being on a space station, Pesquet said the biggest mistake was how long it took to don a spacesuit and go outside. 

“In the movies, it just happens… space suit on, boom you’re outside,” he said. “In reality… it takes hours to prepare.”

Space perspective

Coldplay, who have quit touring over environmental concerns, found common ground with Pesquet as he described his perspective from space. 

“It’s amazing how small and finite and fragile the Earth is,” he said. “It’s a ball, it’s self-contained. Everything we have is here, there’s nothing else. You have to use your resources wisely.”

Pesquet then donned some sunglasses, adding they were necessary in the viewing pod. 

“Now you look more like a rock star than we ever did!” Martin said, laughing. 

Has he seen any strange lifeforms out there, the singer asked with a grin. 

“Not yet, but I keep an eye for them… I keep looking.”

Coldplay also had an imaginative launch for the last album, 2019’s “Everyday Life”, for which they placed ads in the classified sections of newspapers around the world, including in the local newspapers of their home towns in Britain.

Now read: Somizi Mhlongo returns to his ‘very first love’ – Acting

Agence France-Presse

Press Freedom Day: Government stresses role of media in democracy

May 3rd 2021 at 08:14
By: SAnews

Government has emphasised the importance of media in sharing credible information with the public Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Director General, Phumla Williams, said in a statement on Monday.

“In an era of instant information sharing, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for trustworthy and fact-checked news for public good is crucial”.

Williams made her comments as government joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day under the theme, ‘Information as a Public Good’.

Press Freedom Day

Importance of press freedom

This year’s Press Freedom Day is a call to affirm the importance of valuing information as a public good, realising the importance of having access to credible information, especially in an era of misinformation and disinformation.

“At the core of what is termed fake news is the devastating impact that it leaves on individuals, the public and democracy. In response to misinformation across borders, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on established facts,” Williams said.

May 3 is a day set aside to realise and raise the importance of press freedom.

“The GCIS welcomes its regular interactions with the media through platforms that cater for strengthening relationships, while also allowing us to speak about the work of government and to share our successes and challenges,” Williams said.

Press freedom during the pandemic

Government has acknowledged the good work of the South African media during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whilst government continues to respond to the deadly pandemic, journalists continue to be at the forefront in the fight against the virus by seeding information about the state of national preparedness, precautionary and educative measures to be taken, and general information about the pandemic”.

“Government once again thanks all frontline journalists, who have been working diligently to inform the nation about COVID-19 and help citizens understand the spread and impact of the virus. Government also remembers the brave journalists that have lost their lives while bringing reliable information to our homes,” the GCIS said.

A constitutional right

The 2021 commemoration coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press.

The seminar in 1991 served as a catalyst to encourage press freedom, independence and pluralism in Africa and in other parts of the world.

“Government remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold press freedom, which is enshrined in our Constitution. Since 1994, the government has been resolute in the belief that an independent and free media are vital partners in strengthening any democracy,” the GCIS said.

Today is World Press Freedom Day;
Yet it means very little in Zimbabwe where journalists are routinely beaten up and arrested!

Zimbabwe had an important place on the continent, today it is just another failed pariah state!

Sadly our journalists have nothing to celebrate today!

— Hopewell Chin’ono Today (@daddyhope) May 3, 2021

Gov. Fintiri celebrates Nigerian journalists on World Press Freedom Day:

Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri of Adamawa state has felicitated with Nigerian journalists as they celebrate this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Fintiri in a statement signed by his Director General media,

— Muhammad Bakari Tukur SSA New Media to Gov.Fintiri (@MGcfr) May 3, 2021