Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
THE Bulawayo Maintenance Court is still referring paternity disputes and forensic science cases to South Africa despite the successful registration of the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) DNA centre.
NUST Applied Genetic Testing Centre (AGTC) director Mr Zephania Dhlamini said while other courts in the country were referring disputes to the centre, people in Bulawayo were still being referred to the neighbouring country.
He said the laboratory had not handled any referral cases from the local Maintenance Court.
“We have received a number of referral cases from other courts in the country and we have assisted them but the Bulawayo Maintenance Court is still referring paternity disputes to South Africa, where people part with more than $900 for the tests.
“The paternity tests that we have handled involving Bulawayo people are all individual cases with no referrals. This centre was established to help people solve their disputes and this is a sought after service. It is therefore sad when people are forced to spend more on the same service that we offer at a much lower fee,” said Mr Dhlamini.
The AGTC director said this while addressing legal practitioners at a two-day law development commission stakeholder consultative workshop in Bulawayo on Wednesday.
The workshop was organised by the inter-ministerial taskforce technical committee to discuss the draft DNA Evidence Bill.
Mr Dhlamini said the Nust DNA centre was as good as any other DNA laboratory in the world, with internationally recognised standards.
“We’re using internationally validated methods and the DNA equipment we’re using is found at any DNA lab in the world. The members of staff have also been adequately trained to do their work efficiently. Our lab and the staff are registered under the Medical Laboratory and clinical scientist council of Zimbabwe which regulates our ethical involvement in DNA testing,” said Mr Dhlamini.
He welcomed the DNA Evidence Bill and emphasised the need to train police officers and legal practitioners on how to handle cases.
“The use of DNA is a new technology that is being used in our courts and the world over. They must know what DNA testing is all about and how to handle DNA tests without compromising the cases that they’re dealing with.
“A lawyer must know what evidence he or she should present to support a client and must be clear on what the test is all about and the implications of the results. The same applies to the judges, magistrates and prosecutors,” said Mr Dhlamini.
The DNA Evidence Bill provides for the collection, preservation, laboratory analysis and profiling of DNA evidence for use in criminal cases and for use in identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains. It also creates a new consolidated version of the regulation of administration of maintenance and the national DNA database which takes consideration of the trends in the region related to the use of forensic DNA profiles in the investigation of crime. — @pamelashumba1