Tutu slams Basson verdict

Johannesburg | Sunday

ARCHBISHOP Desmond Tutu has blasted the acquittal of apartheid-era germ warfare expert Wouter Basson, saying most people believed Basson was guilty.

Tutu, former Truth and Reonciliation chairman, wrote to the Sunday Times newspaper from the USA, calling the judgement a “big blow to the credibility of the judicial process”. He said he was “shocked, but not surprised” at the acquittal.

“The judge, [Willie Hartzenberg] made it clear from the beginning that he did not believe the prosecution had a case. He was quite contemptuous of their efforts, which is a big blow to the judicial process,” he wrote.

Referring to the failed 1996 prosecution of former Defence Minister Magnus Malan - who congratulated Basson at the Pretoria High Court on Thursday - and other top officers from the then South African Defence Force (SADF) for the KwaMakutha massacre, Tutu said it showed the wisdom of the TRC process.

“There is, I am sure, far greater anger and disgruntlement in the black community particularly at what has happened here than ever happened in the amnesty process,” he said.

But he said acquittal was not necessarily saying the accused was innocent.

“Most believe differently… and it is important to know that this is a moral universe. They may get away but they can’t hide forever. People have to live with themselves. Reconciliation is a process and it may suffer setbacks but is fundamentally on the right path.”

Basson was last week acquitted of 46 charges in a trial that lasted more than two years.

Eighteen of the counts related to murder, conspiracy, assault and intimidation, 24 to theft and fraud involving close to R46-million, three to the possession of Ecstacy, and one to being in possession of classified documents.

The State gave notice of its intention to appeal against the Pretoria High Court’s acquittal of Basson immediately after the trial. - Sapa

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