Editorial Comment: DNA centre must be fully utilised

18 Apr, 2015 - 05:04 0 Views
Editorial Comment: DNA centre must be fully utilised

The Chronicle

The commissioning of a $500,000 DNA centre at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) is another milestone achievement that will among other services, assist the police in fighting crime. The DNA centre which is one of the three facilities in Zimbabwe, will primarily be used for research on the genetic diversity of the Zimbabwean population but the university authorities said the institution is keen to work with the police so that the centre can assist the police to solve major crimes such as rape and murder.

The new centre will also speed up paternity testing so in future there might be no need to send samples for paternity tests to South Africa. The Zimbabwe Republic Police does not have a crime lab and therefore has been prosecuting crime without the benefit of DNA which can be used to clear or convict suspects based on crime scene evidence testing.

The chairman of the Department of Applied Biology in Biochemistry at Nust, Zephaniah Dhlamini said the university will assist the police by keeping a DNA database of every convicted criminal that the police could use in future.

What this means is that if a crime is committed in a certain area, the police can quickly check on the evidence that is found on the crime scene or on the victim and then find a match.

The use of DNA evidence will reduce cases of individuals wrongly convicted and this is a positive development. The new DNA centre, Dlamini said, can solve disputed paternity cases as DNA tests will be done locally unlike before when samples had to be taken to South Africa thereby attracting high costs.

The other services the centre can provide include human identification and basic individual profiling. The profiling makes it easy to identify an individual who, for example, is burnt beyond recognition. The centre can also do DNA analysis on bones which are more than 100 years old.

The same technology can be used to test genetically modified organisms in crops as well as HIV viral loads and other viruses that affect humans.

This centre is therefore not meant to just benefit Nust staff and students in their research but society in general.

The police who unfortunately said they were not aware there is such a useful facility at Nust, should, without delay, engage authorities at the university so that society can start benefiting from the facility. What is encouraging is that the officer commanding Bulawayo, Senior Assistant Commissioner Stephen Mutamba said the ZRP is not averse to new crime-fighting tools.

The new centre should enhance the police’s capacity to resolve crime and also help in speeding up investigations. What is important is for the police to embrace this advanced technology of fighting crime which, as already alluded to, will reduce the number of people that are wrongly convicted.

The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare should also use the centre to enhance its service delivery. We want to once again implore Nust authorities to engage all those institutions and organisations meant to benefit from the facility so that as a nation we start benefiting from the centre’s services now.

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