/ 15 November 2013

Basson’s lawyer speaks out against ‘armchair approach’

Basson's Lawyer Speaks Out Against 'armchair Approach'

Cardiologist Dr Wouter Basson had only just started his medical career when he was asked to be part of the apartheid government's secret chemical warfare programme, his lawyer said on Friday.

"He was someone who had joined the defence [force] after university," said Jaap Cilliers SC.

"He was about to study further in order to specialise when he was approached by the … then surgeon general to take over as project officer."

Cilliers was presenting his closing arguments at a six-year long misconduct hearing in Pretoria against Basson initiated by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).

Cilliers said it was important to not view the matter with an "armchair approach". South Africa was involved in very serious conflict where people, in and outside the country, died and others were injured daily.

Committee chairperson Jannie Hugo said evidence showed Basson held a senior position when some of the decisions were taken.

Basson's involvement
"That is not a picture of a young doctor. It is a picture of a mature physician with years of experience," said Hugo.

Committee member Judge Frikkie Eloff said according to the evidence, Basson's alleged activities began in the 1980s and lasted until the 1990s.

Cilliers said Basson had already testified that he did not remember when some of the alleged transgressions happened, who the targets were, or who gave the orders.

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

Basson 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.

Acting unethically
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