Basson sentencing off to a rocky start

The first day of the sentencing hearing of Wouter Basson got off to a rocky start on Wednesday. 

The pro forma complainants, that represent the doctors who originally laid a complaint against Basson, called on executive director of the activist organisation Section27, Mark Heywood, to present petitions signed by health professionals, and health and human rights organisations motivating for Basson be struck off the Health Professions Council of South Africa’s [HPCSA] register. 

In December 2013 Basson, who is a private cardiologist, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for acting unethically as a medical doctor during his time as head of the apartheid-era chemical and biological programme. 

The Professional Conduct Committee of the HPCSA found Basson guilty on four charges which include providing “disorientation substances for over the border kidnapping exercises, where substances were used too tranquilise the person to be kidnapped” and making cyanide capsules available “for distribution to members of specialised units for suicidal usage”.    

Heywood’s testimony was repeatedly interrupted by Basson’s lawyer, Jaap Cilliers, who had initially called for the proceedings to be postponed because the defence had only received the documents presented on the same day. 

“They [pro forma complainant] didn’t inform us of what they intend to do and which witnesses they intend to call until just prior to the start of the proceedings,” said Cilliers.

However the Council elected to let Heywood continue with his testimony. According to the petitions the signatories wanted Basson struck off the roll because of the “seriousness of the offences for which he has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the HPCSA”, the “irreparable harm caused by the offences he admitted” and to “protect trust in the profession”.

Things got tense when Cilliers once again interrupted Heywood asking if “this was a public relations exercise” in reference to Heywood’s presentation about the work of Section27. 

Cilliers further went on to ask “What’s the relevance of this nonsense?”

Shortly thereafter Heywood stopped his testimony because “this senior council [Cilliers] is intimidating and causing some disturbance”. The sentencing hearing continues on Thursday when Cilliers will cross examine Heywood, and more witnesses will be called to the stand.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


‘Frustrated’ police resort to force

Regulation uncertainty leaves slap-happy police and soldiers to decide when people should or shouldn’t be allowed on the streets

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders