The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwean courts are still referring paternity disputes and forensic science cases to South African companies through National Blood Transfusion Services despite the successful registration of the country’s first DNA testing centre last year, The Sunday Mail can reveal.
The Medical Laboratory and Clinic Scientists Council of Zimbabwe last year registered African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AIBST) to start conducting DNA testing, but up to now the lab has not handled any referral cases.
This is despite the fact that AIBST assisted the Government to successfully identify victims of the Chisumbanje disaster who were burnt beyond recognition last year.
In an interview AIBST president and Chief Scientific Officer Professor Collen Masimirembwa said his organisation is yet to handle cases referred from the courts adding that the few they have handled have only been done with people who are only seeking peace of mind.
“It appears the courts are not yet aware of what we are doing here,” he said.
“We have not yet been entrusted with the duty of conducting DNA testing because as of now courts are still referring all paternity cases to South Africa through the National Blood Transfusion Services.
“Since we started operating in October last year we have handled only 100 cases which are mostly from people who are seeking peace of mind.”
DNA tests can be done to establish the child’s biological parents in maintenance cases, to establish a rapist in criminal investigations, identify bodies of accident victims, in murder investigations, tracing the family histories in chieftainship squabbles. Paternity fraud has been on the increase in Zimbabwe with statistics from the High Court showing that about 68 of men who went for DNA testing were maintaining other people’s children.
Prof Masimirembwa said unlike other labs everything was done in Harare at the AIBST laboratory and no samples were sent out to other countries.
“We do everything here from taking of samples to the presentation and announcement of results,” he said.
Asked why DNA testing cases were still being referred to South Africa, Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Paul Chimedza said the issue was technical and therefore not a Government policy.
“This is a purely technical issue, it’s not a Government policy so the best people to comment on this issue are the National Blood Transfusion Services themselves,” he said.
Efforts to get a comment from National Blood Transfusion were fruit less as their phones went unanswered.
The University of Zimbabwe is reportedly conducting a project focusing in forensic sciences in a bid to start training specialist in forensic science and DNA testing. (AIBST) is charging US$500 to conclude investigating cases while other labs in the region are charging as low as US$150.