Basson launches bid to force committee recusal

The Health Professions Council of South Africa on Thursday heard an application by Wouter Basson to recuse the committee that is conducting an inquiry into his professional conduct and is tasked with determining his fate.

The recusal bid was filed after it emerged that committee chairperson Jannie Hugo is a member of two organisations that brought a petition before the committee calling for Basson to be removed from the medical practitioners’ roll: the South African Medical Association and the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa.

In December 2013 Basson – who has been dubbed “Dr Death” – was found guilty of unethical conduct in his role as the leader of the apartheid-era chemical and biological warfare programme.

He was found guilty on four charges, including co-ordinating the production and stockpiling of mandrax, ecstasy and tear gas and “providing disorientating substances used for over-the-border kidnapping”.

‘Biased view’
But Basson’s lawyer, Jaap Cilliers, said that the committee’s bias against “a medical doctor who enlisted into the South African National Defence Force in the 1980s” means that “the committee had a biased view against [Basson] which existed before the commencement of the proceedings”.

Cilliers said that by virtue of being a member of organisations that are now part of the proceedings, Hugo must recuse himself as he cannot be a judge in his own case.

Furthermore, said Cilliers, the committee is not objective and is siding with the complainants.

Salie Joubert, who represents the complainants in the matter, called Basson’s recusal application as “weak” and without “substance” and said it should be dismissed.

“The defence should have waited until after the final decision of the committee before applying for recusal,” said Joubert.

“At this stage there are no grounds for recusal. This application is designed to trap the committee into a confrontation.”

Joubert said the recusal application is a “trick” to get out of a tough situation. “The allegations contained herein awaken the reference to the ‘shoe pinches’ syndrome.

“The syndrome is quite regularly experienced in courts when it dawns on a party that the inevitable outcome is to be to his detriment.”

The hearing will continue in Pretoria on Friday.

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Bhekisisa team
Bhekisisa Team
Health features and news from across Africa by Bhekisisa, the Mail & Guardian's health journalism centre.

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