MP’s failed to arrive

Some of you may have already heard about the drama that unfolded at yesterday’s DNA Conference in Pretoria.  The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Ms Sindi Chikunga, pulled out at the last minute and we were left ‘standing at the altar’ as to what she was going to say in respect of an update on the progress of the DNA Bill. The organisers of the conference had gone to great lengths to accommodate not only her request to present at the conference, but had shuffled the entire programme around, again to accommodate her request to hear certain relevant presentations pertaining to Forensic DNA.  Highly respected and renown representatives from 5 different continents were present, and to say that I was deeply embarrassed by the failure of the Chairperson to arrive, let alone provide a reason for her no-show, is an understatement. I was asked to stand up in her place to give an update of the DNA Bill from our perspective as well as the reason why we urgently need this Bill to be passed in South Africa and for those of you who were there, there was no sugar coating insofar as me communicating to the audience how infuriated I was that this had happened.  Whatever the reason for the sudden exit from the programme, I think that the least she could have done was to have asked someone to stand up in her place and provide an apology for her absence and make up, for all we care, some excuse as to why she could not be there. Her failure to have done this smacks of bad manners and comes across as arrogant and the audience took note of this too. Whilst there may well be a legitimate reason for her absence, this needed to be communicated, particularly in this forum, where all eyes where on her — those of  the public, the presenters, the Forensics Lab, the press and the many humanitarian organisations in attendance. I doubt that the lasting impression Ms Chikunga wanted was that she is simply above us and could not care about this DNA Bill (and for the record I personally believe she does care) — but the word out there following this omission, is  I’m afraid, otherwise.

Be that as it may, the Parliamentary Researcher was present at not only the DNA Workshop which preceded the DNA Conference this week, but at both days of the conference and has assured me that she has taken copious amounts of notes and will be conveying pertinent information back to the Portfolio Committee as to what has been presented. And that brings me to the second reason why I felt so upset yesterday — this Conference provided an incredible opportunity for not only the Chairperson but the entire Portfolio Committee (who were also invited but only one member arrived) to learn about the successful use of Forensic DNA throughout the world. The presenters were world class, from both overseas and South Africa, and each talk only went further to verify the incredible potential of this technology as a crime fighting tool, particularly in South Africa where crime is rampant. So much could have been learned and understood from simply listening to the various talks, and more still from the opportunity to ask questions, interface and integrate with these experts — but this opportunity has sadly been lost.

I refuse to be worn down by the apparent lack of political will to move on with this Bill, but I think it is time that the Portfolio Committee communicated their intentions insofar as:

1. when they intend to start reviewing phase 2 of the Bill;

2. When they intend to go on their tour overseas and whether this trip has been approved by Parliament, and if not why?

Members of Parliament are after all accountable to us, the citizens who voted them in there in the first place. And it’s all very well to stand up for something when they want our votes. But it is now, when it really counts, that their real mettle shows, and I hope that they have the transparency and integrity to give us feedback as suggested above. How difficult could that be? And I believe that a continued failure to be forthcoming in this regard, does not cast them in the best possible light. But that is their choice.

I will sign off on that note, and will report back on some of the fascinating talks presented yesterday and today, during the course of next week.

Have a good weekend.


3 Responses to “MP’s failed to arrive”

  1. Fanie van Niekerk says:

    Hi Vanessa
    It is about the last year that I had a thought that I wondered if South Africa does enough or any training in DNA analysis.I am involved in Learnership training at a College in Pretoria and I believe we in South Africa need to secure funding from (overseas if necessary)sponsers as well as the necessary technology and tools to equip a training laboratery. This facility can then be utilised as a practical training workshop for these learners.
    A Learnership is a career orientated “Apprenticeship” but with the difference that it gives a Learner access to University, starting from Level 2 up to Level 4 and thereafter access to Level 5 and beyond in a Tertiary Institution. Please contact me for more details and training posibilities. Fanie

  2. Tony Sills says:

    keep on pushing and get a petition going to drum up support
    good luck

  3. Tracey says:

    I am completely astounded that our MP failed to arrive for such an important event, one that ultimately affects each and every South African, whether directly or indirectly. The lack of commitment to the very people that voted her (and others) in says it all…