/ 14 November 2013

HPCSA hearing into Basson’s conduct postponed

Apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson.
Apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

The Health Professions Council of South Africa's (HPCSA) hearing into the conduct of apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson will resume on Friday.

Closing argument began on Thursday, with Salie Joubert, for the HPCSA, dismissing Basson's evidence as misleading and unreliable.

Basson was arrogant and displayed "convenient amnesia" during cross-examinations, he said.

He told committee chairperson Professor Jannie Hugo that Basson should be found guilty on all of the four charges he faces. The evidence of medical ethics expert Professor Steven Haverstock Miles showed the extent of Basson's unethical conduct, he said.

The evidence of General Daniel Pieter Knobel, who testified as an expert on behalf of the defence, could not be relied on. Knobel testified about his involvement in Project Coast at the time that he headed the South African Medical Services.

Project Coast was a secret biological and chemical warfare research project during the apartheid years. Basson was the project officer. "It is such a tragedy and unfortunate that Knobel rejected the principles of his profession," said Joubert.

Apartheid involvement
Jaap Cilliers, for Basson, is expected to close the defence's case on Friday. 

The charges against Basson arise from his involvement in the apartheid government's chemical and biological warfare programme in the 1980s and early 1990s.

He is accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine, and teargas, of weaponising teargas, and of supplying it to Angola's Unita rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

He is also accused of acting unethically by providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings, and making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the high court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct.

The HPCSA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to continue with an inquiry against him. – Sapa