29 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Mujuru Opens DNA Testing Centre

Acting President Joice Mujuru yesterday officially opened the country's first DNA testing centre, bringing local solutions in the fight against sexual abuse as well as other criminal and civil matters.

Speaking during the official launch of the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST) DNA Testing Centre in partnership with Wilkins Hospital in Harare yesterday, Acting President Mujuru said the centre came with a revolution, which totally changes the law and order as well as judiciary landscape in Zimbabwe.

"The police and the justice system will benefit the most in their endeavour to establish scientific facts as opposed to crude opinions that are sometimes traded as the truth," she said.

"DNA has the phenomenal power to distinguish one person from the other, hence creates a unique signature for that person.

"The police can, therefore, collect DNA contacting evidence from a crime scene such as blood, hair, saliva, bone and other tissue and compare the DNA profile, from these trace evidence with that obtained from suspects of the crime."

Acting President Mujuru said the availability of local capacity in DNA technology implied a reduction of sending samples outside the country for testing.

AiBST DNA testing centre, she said, was able to identify disaster victims in the past, having worked with the ministries of Home Affairs and Health and Child Care in identifying victims of the Chisumbanje tanker fire recently.

Acting President Mujuru said the laboratory will produce results of DNA tests within two weeks.

"The police, the law makers and many stakeholders in the fight against sexual abuse and violence are, therefore, encouraged to formulate working frameworks with the AiBST DNA Testing Centre, so that the ugly figures of over 5 000 rape cases a year and over 3 000 unsolved outstanding rape cases in courts become a thing of the past," she said.

"The AiBST DNA Testing Laboratory conducts paternity tests. This means that the civil courts can rapidly address issues of disputed paternity and solve issues of child maintenance without resorting to endless debates which cost people time and money."

Acting President Mujuru said the laboratory would also help in identifying lost relatives, for example liberation war heroes whose mass graves are being discovered.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said his ministry was looking into ways of strengthening collaboration with AiBST in a quest to reduce the burden of sexual violence and abuse.

"In this vein, we should be able to have DNA databases of criminals, which make it easy for us to keep track of repeat offenders," he said.

"Accordingly, the Police Forensic Science Laboratory will work with AiBST in integrating DNA testing for the tests it conducts in investigations."

Health and Child Care Minister Dr David Parirenyatwa said AiBST demonstrated that it could deliver in the area of research.

"The laboratory can also help in testing women who are at risk of contracting breast cancer at an early age," he said.

"Our scientists are now coming up and sprouting."

Founder and chief executive of AiBST, Professor Collen Masimirembwa said his organisation could create employment for more people if given enough space to operate from.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said the opening of the centre came at a time when the city was aiming at becoming a World Class City by 2025.

AiBST charges US$500 to conclude a standard paternity test, which costs nearly US$200 in South Africa where samples from Zimbabwe were being sent.


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