• Plants can play a vital role in linking individuals to crime scenes: from the leaves we step on to the pollen that stick to our clothes. If you are curious about the secret language of plants and the link to crime scenes, be sure to read the article about Forensic Botany published in Servamus: September 2020.

  • Forensics is a fascinating science with a variety of subdisciplines that are used to link an individual to a crime scene. In an article published in Servamus: September 2020, we highlight some of the lesser known forensic disciplines.

  • Wildlife crime can be fought by using forensics, such as in poaching incidents where forensics is used to link seized rhino horn or ivory to a crime scene. If you want to read about the development of wildlife forensics, be sure to read the article in Servamus: September 2020.

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By Kotie Geldenhuys

When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall. Over a period of eight years, which stretched from 2007 to 2015, they terrorised the community of Alexandra on the East Rand of Gauteng.

They attacked couples in a park close to the Alexandra cemetery where they would rob their victims of their cellphones and order the man to have sex with the woman. Afterwards the two rapists would take turns to rape the woman. In cases where the men resisted, they were simply murdered. The Serial Investigation Section at the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit in Gauteng received forensic DNA investigative leads linking crime scenes and more than 50 rape dockets with the same modus operandi for investigation. During 2015 the FCS Unit arrested two rapist murderers. Buccal samples were collected from Mabitsela and Mkansi and submitted for forensic DNA analysis at the Forensic Science Laboratory. A subsequent comparison search on the National Forensic DNA Database by the Section: Forensic Database Management linked the two suspects to a number of rape cases. In March 2017, Sija Mabitsela handed in a plea agreement and was found guilty on 53 charges which included rape and robbery. In November 2017, he was sentenced to 32 life sentences on 23 counts of rape, six counts of compelled rape, 18 counts of armed robbery, three counts of sexual assault, two counts of kidnapping and one count of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He was also sentenced to an additional 275 years' incarceration for kidnapping and robbery with aggravated circumstances. In October 2017, Josias Mkansi was sentenced to 14 life sentences after he was found guilty on multiple rape charges as well as an additional 185 years' incarceration for aggravated assault and an additional two ten-year sentences for compelled rape.

There are many other serial rapists who, like Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi, create fear in communities. When the national crime statistics for 2018/2019 were released in September 2019, it became evident that there was a significant increase in rape for the said financial year. The 2018/2019 figure increased to 41 583 from 40 035 for the 2017/2018 financial year. These horrendous statistics make one wonder how many of these reported crimes are committed by serial rapists. In 2006 researchers reported that 16% of young South African men living in rural areas either were involved in raping a non- partner or participating in a gang rape. Of this 16%, more than one third had raped two or more different victims (Jewkes et al, 2006). Even though these statistics are quite old, one needs to ask whether a substantial number of serial rapists are at work in South Africa at any given time, when the increase in rape cases is taken into consideration.

DNA has proven to be one of the most effective investigating tools available to law enforcement to secure the conviction of serial rapists. The Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Amendment Act 37 of 2013 (commonly known as the DNA Act) which came into operation in January 2015, provides for the expansion and administration of the National Forensic DNA Database of South Africa (NFDD). This authorises the SAPS to match forensic DNA profiles derived from samples collected at crime scenes with forensic DNA profiles derived from offenders convicted of and suspects arrested for offences listed in a new Schedule 8 of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 (as amended). The comparison of forensic DNA profiles derived from crime scenes against the forensic DNA profiles from a certain category of persons in the NFDD, enables a proficient mechanism to link perpetrators to crime scenes. The DNA Act provides for the amendment of the South African Police Service Act of 68 of 1995 to:

  • facilitate the establishment and regulation of the NFDD;
  • take specified bodily samples from certain categories of persons for the purposes of forensic DNA analysis;
  • provide for the conditions under which the samples or forensic DNA profiles derived from the samples may be kept or the periods within which they must be destroyed;
  • facilitate the use of forensic DNA profiles in the investigation of crime and the use of such profiles in proving the innocence or guilt of persons before or during a prosecution or the exoneration of convicted persons; and
  • assist in the identification of missing persons and unidentified human remains.

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[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: September 2020. The rest of the article deals with the value of DNA profiling, how the different indices work, what the DNA process entails and we give various examples of how DNA has contributed to the conviction of criminals. If you are interested in reading the comprehensive article, send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact Servamus’s office at tel: (012) 345 4660/41. Ed.]

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Servamus - September 2020

When crimes are committed, the first thing criminals want to do is to get rid of the evidence that would link them to that crime.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Albert du Preez Myburgh abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered his close friend's eight-year-old daughter in May 1999, he did not realise that bugs would play a role in his conviction and sentence.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Imagine how challenging it must be for scientists to identify a victim when only skeleton remains are available… now imagine how much bigger this challenge becomes for forensic anthropologists when only burnt skeleton remains are available and they have to identify these bones.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2020

In Servamus: July 2020, Pollex published a legal quiz regarding the current/recent state of disaster. Please refer to that issue for the questions.

Letters - September 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many and claimed the lives of so many, is still continuing to be a global threat for which there is no cure.
Const Kwayo Louw (23), a policeman from Kraaifontein, was recently commended by the Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz for his exemplary contribution towards his community in Kraaifontein.
Retired W/O Sham Singh, the first Indian Station Commander of Lenasia, celebrated his 80th birthday on 9 July 2020. A milestone birthday for anyone and it was even posted on Facebook.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.