SOUTH Africa’s extremely high rates of serious crime could make the creation of a DNA database unaffordable.

While it is a given that the creation of a DNA database will be a critical tool in the fight against crime, each DNA test will cost about R2,000.

The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Bill before Parliament’s police committee initially provided that all people arrested for schedule one offences should be the subject of DNA testing through the taking of a "buccal swab".

More than 2-million serious crimes are reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) each year and many thousands of them are schedule one offences.

Schedule one includes, among others, sedition, treason, murder, culpable homicide, rape, sexual assault, any sexual crime against a child, robbery and kidnapping.

In addition to taking samples from those arrested for schedule one offences, the initial bill provides for the taking of samples at crime scenes, samples from persons not arrested (so they can be excluded as suspects), and of those in prison serving sentences if samples were not taken before imprisonment began.

When asked for a costing of the implementation of the bill, Maj-Gen Adeline Shezi said the training of crime scene examiners would cost R20m, the training of 2,000 officials in the taking of samples including the forensic kits needed would cost R25m a year, and new equipment for the processing of the tests and development of DNA profiles would cost R169m.

African National Congress committee chairwoman Annelize van Wyk said there was concern about the cost of implementing the bill but stressed that she thought the initial cost estimates were overstated. She said a series of detailed questions had been prepared for the SAPS in order to get a better idea of the implementation costs.

She said there was no doubt that DNA testing and analysis was very expensive but that the DNA database would provide a vital crime-fighting tool.

Ms van Wyk said the committee was poised to take only the most serious crimes out of section one of the Criminal Procedure Act and apply the DNA testing to this reduced list of offences.

This would mean that the bill would be applied to the most serious cases such as murder, rape and burglary. This was the practice in other global jurisdictions, she said, and if this was done in the implementation phase of the bill, it would help to cap costs.