/ 18 December 2013

Basson guilty of professional misconduct

Wouter Basson.
Wouter Basson.

Apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson – who was not present for the judgment in his six-year hearing before the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) – was found guilty of misconduct on Wednesday.

The hearing, initiated by the HPCSA, was held at the organisation's offices in Pretoria.

Jaap Cilliers SC, for Basson, presented closing arguments in November.

The inquiry found that Basson acted unethically in the exercise of his duties as a chemical warfare expert.

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

Basson not present
On Friday, the HPCSA professional conduct committee received a letter informing it Basson would not be able to attend, chairperson Professor Jannie Hugo said earlier on Wednesday.

According to Basson's counsel, he attended a medical conference overseas and there was confusion over flight bookings.

Cilliers said Basson could be excused from proceedings and that a copy of the judgment would be sent to him.

The committee opened proceedings on Wednesday by observing a moment's silence for former president Nelson Mandela, who died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, aged 95.

Basson, a cardiologist, was the project officer of Project Coast, a secret biological and chemical warfare research project which violated international protocols and conventions, in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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

The state appealed against this decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed.

The state then went to the Constitutional Court, but the case was dismissed in September 2005.

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