The Sunday Times reported that:
* The delegates stayed at five-star hotels including the exclusive Ritz Carlton on Central Park, where prices start at R5500 a night;
* Some of the Ministers failed to attend any of the sessions;
* A return business class ticket on SAA costs R81104 per person); and
* The South African mission at the UN complained to the Department of International Relations about the size of the delegation.
It was further reported by a government official who was part of the trip, that most members of the South African delegation who did not make it into the conference venue spent their time shopping and clubbing in New York.
So why does this concern me?
Because the Portfolio Committee for Police who have been delaying reviewing our DNA Bill for the last year are preparing to board their own junket to both Canada and the UK on their mission which they have called a “Study Tour”. It remains to be seen what in fact they will be studying, because as we all know so well, the best way to study international trends and developments on any subject these days, is from the comfort of your computer chair. And with the plethora of information available on the internet today, you can access every single country’s policy on DNA databasing, their legislation as well as any other information relevant to the development, expansion and use of their database for criminal intelligence. Trust me, I have done just that and have all the documents to prove it!
If it is forensic DNA laboratories they need to see – this too can be seen, ‘live’ in Pretoria, where international delegates in fact visit South Africa to see the automated robotic system we have in our state of the art DNA Forensic Lab.
And as for the size of the delegation embarking on the planned study tour, I believe the majority of the Portfolio Committee (15 members), a Parliamentary Researcher, two legal advisors, 3 members of the Forensic Services, and possibly a further 9 delegates who have expressed an interest on joining the junket, will be making the trip.
Excuse me if I sound bitter – but having heard a series of international experts talk on the issue of DNA Databases and its phenomenal use in crime fighting last week (all of which seminars were held here in South Africa and I noted, none of which even one member of the Portfolio bothered to attend, albeit they were free and local!), I cannot understand why the reviewing of this important piece of legislation pivots on the need for possibly 30 government officials to embark on a 10 day international trip to look at two forensic labs, which are doing precisely the same thing we are dong here in South Africa? Each day they delay getting on with the job of actually reviewing the DNA Bill, more victims are being murdered and raped because their perpetrators haven’t been at the very least identified or that evidence documented on a database which could lead investigators to apprehend the real suspect.
Why do we accept this? How can we allow 15 people and their delegation of henchmen to stand between justice and the fate of literally thousands of victims and future victims?
Those government officials are afterall accountable to us, may we remind them – and as such, I think that they owe us an official and detailed explanation as to why they deem it necessary to embark on the study tour, who they will be taking with them and why, when they actually intend making this trip, what they expect to see and learn in those two countries and at what cost to us, the tax payers – the cost to the victims is clear – it will in the meantime be counted in lives lost and damaged.
Madame Chairman of the Portfolio Committee for Police: are you able to answer these few very simple questions?
We await to hear from you.