Parliamentary Fact vs Fiction

The following series of emails between certain Members of Parliament and myself, relate to the progress (or lack thereof…) of the Draft DNA Bill through Parliament. I have replaced actual names with MP1 and MP2 which stand for Member of Parliament 1 and 2 – it is irrelevant as to who they are addressed to, so there is no need to publicly point fingers. What is relevant is that as Members’ of Parliament, there exists an obligation to serve the very people who put them in Parliament in the first place – us! It is that obligation, I believe, which compels me to write to these MP’s to remind them that action needs to be taken to properly fulfil this very important duty.

Read on below and decide for yourself what is fact and what is fiction…

Vanessa

From: Vanessa Lynch | DNA Project
Date: 20 February 2012 1:11:01 PM SAST
Subject: DNA draft Bill

Dear MP1

You may have heard about the man who has been arrested in Limpopo as he has been linked to more than 100 rapes. See http://dnaproject.co.za/blog/man-linked-to-100-rapes-with-help-of-dna


With a developed DNA Database, this rapist could have been identified through DNA long before he raped 100 women. Let us look yet again to the failure of our Parliamentary Portfolio Committee to act on the legislation that would give police the ability to immediately begin taking rapists off the street. The legislation sits with this Committee while the worst sexual violence statistics in the world continue to pile up. Except they are not really statistics. They are real people.

The draft DNA Bill has been in Parliament since 2008; the same Committee embarked upon a 2 week, 5 star, business class ‘fact finding tour’ to Canada and the UK last year June, and since that time have not reconvened to deliberate this Bill. 4 years later. Are you aware of this issue and political inertia which results in more women and children being raped in SA every year? If so, do you simply condone it?

I suggest you read the following article for some sobering insight.
I am interested to hear what you have to say about this and whether you are prepared to speak out on this issue?

Best regards

Vanessa Lynch

Founder and Executive Director
The DNA Project
www.dnaproject.co.za
____________________________________________

From: MP1
Sent: 23 February 2012 10:48 AM
To: MP2
Subject: FW: DNA draft Bill

Dear MP2

I enclose for your attention correspondence received by the Parliament Leaders’ Office from Vanessa Lynch.

We believe that this letter would be best addressed by you in your capacity as Shadow Minister of Police.

We have informed the author of the letter that their case is in your hands.
_________________________________________________

Dear MP1,

I have responded to Ms Lynch on numerous occasions. I have asked the secretary of the committee to produce a copy of the proposed legislation over and over again, and there is nothing on the table at this stage. The Glenister judgement will no doubt take precedence over this legislation because of the Constitution Court judgement and deadline.

If Ms Lynch continues to believe after extensive explanations of how the processes work in Parliament that the Police Portfolio Committee takes rape for granted, then she is simply wrong.

I have assured her again and again that the moment a proposed draft is tabled, that I will forward her a copy. I have also informed her that the invaluable information gleaned in Canada and the UK will form the basis for this legislation, and that we did not simply go on a holiday. The manner of our travel is determined by Parliament. We did that trip in June/July last year, not four years ago. I also presented a detailed account of the study tour to our caucus.

The draft bill she refers to was split, because of the national outcry against the DNA section of it. We did, however, manage to pass the section on fingerprints and body prints. The DNA database section is currently in the process of being totally rewritten by the SAPS and Parliamentary legal experts.

Regards,

MP2

________________________________________

Dear MP1

Fact: The Draft DNA Bill has not been put onto the Parliamentary Agenda for 2012.
Fact: The State Legal Advisors have to date not been instructed to draft a DNA Bill following the study tour. I am therefore not sure which SAPS and Parliamentary legal experts MP2 is referring to.
Fact: The only ‘tangible’ document currently existing which relates to DNA legislation is the final report from the study tour last year. No further action has been taken since that time, and if it has, I am not entirely sure what it is!?
Fact: The previous draft Bill was split because the current Committee deemed it too complicated to deal with both issues simultaneously and wanted to go on an international ‘fact finding mission’ to see what other countries were doing with their DNA legislation.
Fact: There was not a ‘national outcry’ on the previous draft DNA Bill. All, save for one, of the public submissions (and I personally listened to each one) submitted to the previous ad Hoc Committee on the first draft DNA Bill were in favour of the Bill. Only POPCRU objected and specifically only to the section which allowed private laboratories to assist with capacity.
Fact: public outcry right now is because of the Committee’s failure to finalise this Bill. The attached timeline clearly shows that following the adoption of the fingerprint section of the Bill in 2010, besides the ‘fact finding’ tour, nothing further has been done.
Fact: The Secreteriat for the Minister of Police has been assuring us, much the same as the Committee, that this Bill remains a priority (a relative term!) and that a policy document is being compiled upon which the new Bill will be drafted. Each week there is yet another promise that this ‘policy document’ will be sent to us for comment. This is the end of another week, and still no policy document. Still no Bill.
Fact: With a developed DNA Database, serial rapists can be identified through DNA preventing them from raping more women and children as the case may be.
Fact: This legislation sits with this Committee while the worst sexual violence statistics in the world continue to pile up. Except they are not really statistics.
Fact: They are real people.
Fact: Parliamentary ‘assurances’ remain empty promises to these and future victims.

Solution: pressure needs to be put to bear on the Minister of Police to urgently complete and sign off the “policy document” in order that the state legal advisors may start drafting the new DNA Bill and there needs to be parliamentary confirmation that this Bill will be reviewed by the Committee at the very least by April 2012. A full year should not be allowed to have passed between the “invaluable information gleaned in Canada and the UK that will form the basis for this legislation..” and the Committee’s review of the draft DNA legislation. We all know that important details are often lost with the passage of time and I can hardly imagine that this does not apply to all of our esteemed MP’s!!

With all due respect, we need to ensure that constant pressure is applied on the Committee’s Chair to compel her to stand by the final recommendation of the previous ad Hoc Committee which clearly stated that:

“The importance of the Bill in the fight against crime cannot be overemphasized. The Committee is totally committed to the fight against crime and view it as an absolute priority.

The Committee recommends that the next Parliament consider this Bill as a matter of urgency.” (Ad Hoc Committee, 23 March 2009)

My question is, do you think it is reasonable that “urgency” has been interpreted by the current Portfolio Committee as being a period of three years later?

MP2 is not being blamed. I wrote to you, MP1 because I think you can put additional pressure on the Committee by speaking out and ensuring that this Bill is not simply allowed to be passed over continuously for other “urgent” matters. The Shadow Minister for the Police, surely can also put pressure on the Secretariat for Police to complete the elusive ‘policy document’ so at the very least, the state legal advisors can start drafting a DNA Bill. In that way, by the time the Committee is ready for ‘action’ the draft Bill at best will be ready.

Best regards
Vanessa Lynch

___________________

And this is how it ended:

MP2: The Parliamentary Agenda changes regularly – it is not fixed. There are items on the other Committees’ agenda which are listed there because they remain a priority.
MP2: My information is that the drafting of this Bill has been left with them – I have no knowledge of the time it will take them to complete this Bill and various others.

VL RESPONSE: They have no knowledge of this instruction because it does not exist. If it does, please send me the name of the state legal advisor tasked with the drafting of the new Bill.

MP2: We as a committee did not ‘deem it too complicated to deal with simultaneously’…we got through the relatively uncontroversial sections, an needed extensive knowledge to deal with the highly technical inputs which rejected the DNA database on human rights issues. VL RESPONSE: And we are now waiting for that extensive knowledge to be put to good use!
MP2: It seems you missed the anti-submissions by the Medical Rights Advocacy Network, and by Mary de Haas, lawyers such as Martin Hood etc – all of whom pointed to what they believe was the unconstitutionality of this suggestion.

VL RESPONSE: The submissions you refer to were late written submissions not referred to in the  oral proceedings. Yes, I have a copy of these written submissions, which centre largely around the taking of samples by police.

MP2: I am unaware of any outcry that this Bill has yet to be processed.

VL RESPONSE:How shortsighted MP2 – please attend one of our many workshops, listen to the radio/tv interviews, read the press and hear and see what people  have to say about your Committees’ performance on this Bill to date. It’s a combination of disbelief and disgust.  The editor of the Saturday Star headed his editorial about the failure of your Committee to act as: ‘Raped again – by the system’ and ended it by saying ‘How long do our women and children have to wait for justice?’….

MP2:  I am aware that the Glenister judgement deadline is looming, and that the focus must first be on that Bill rather than risk being in contempt.

MP2:     I am fully aware of the benefits of such a database – although I believe that the ANC may not want to allow ie familial searches and to in many ways water down the UK model in favour of the Canadian model.

MP2:   I am more than willing to put yet another question through to the Minister asking for a timeline.

VL RESPONSE: Thank you. I believe that a definitive plan needs to be announced – without a stated intention, there remains no commitment and no accountability.

One Response to “Parliamentary Fact vs Fiction”

  1. Milanie says:

    Is the time of the ‘Fact Finding trip’ realy that important? What is important is that those facts that were found be applied to South African legislation as soon as possible otherwize a new Fact Finding mission will have to be implemented next year due to technological growth in these labs.

    Come on MP’s get your act together!!!