Wednesday, October 20, 2021

GCC endorses motion for creation of national DNA database

If the government acts on motions from the local government, then Botswana could soon establish a national DNA database. In its just-ended session, the Gaborone City Council adopted a motion “to request the Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security to consider the review of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act to compulsorily introduce, recognise and regulate use of DNA in criminal prosecution in Botswana.”

The motion was tabled by Marulamantsi Ward representative, Councillor Sergeant Kgosietsile, who is also the Chairperson of the Albinism Society of Botswana. The keyword in the motion is “compulsorily” and its practical effect would be getting DNA samples from all people in Botswana.  The case that Kgosietsile made is that beyond its utility as a research tool, a DNA database would also be a powerful tool in the fight against crime as well as in identifying missing persons. A High Court judgement has revealed a loophole in the law that in one respect, could be enabling ritual murder.

A High Court judgement by Justice Ian Kirby has established that no section of the penal code creates an offence for being found with human body parts. The finding occurred on the back of a case in which a man who had been found with such parts had stood trial for murder. The difficulty that the prosecution faced was linking those parts to a specific individual who had been murdered. The accused, a traditional doctor, was set free. The Albinism Society of Botswana has a theory that just like Tanzania, local albinos are also being hunted down and killed for their body parts which supposedly make very strong muti.

The elaboration of that theory is that some of the traditional doctors that ply their trade in Botswana originate from parts of Southern and Central Africa where albinos are not safe. Legislation such as Kgosietsile proposes would provide greater protection not just for albinos but for every else as well. In the case of the traditional doctor who was let off the hook, a DNA match would have been conducted to determine the identity of the person whose body parts were being used as muti. Kgosietsile also hopes that the database would help international policing and would also be financially viable because it would enable law enforcement to identify suspects much more quickly than currently happens.

Councils rank low on the legislative totem pole: from GCC the motion will be kicked upstairs to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Administration which would refer the matter to Ministry of Justice, Defence and Security which after consultation with the cabinet and the Attorney General Chambers, would table an amendment bill before parliament. If followed at all, the process can take absolute ages while criminals exploit the loophole that the High Court has identified.

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