COURT-LD-BASSON

22 Jan 2015 14:00pm
COMMITTEE BIASED AGAINST BASSON: LAWYER The HPCSA committee sentencing apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson for unethical conduct is biased against him, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Thursday. "They exercised very improper conduct and bias towards the applicant," Jaap Cilliers, for Basson, told the court. "In my more than 30 years as a practising attorney, this is the worst approach and conduct by a tribunal I have ever come across." Basson on Monday obtained an interdict preventing the Health Professions Council of SA's (HPCSA) professional conduct committee continuing its sentencing of Basson, arguing that two of its members were biased. Cilliers alleges chairman Prof Frikkie Hugo and committee member Prof Roland Edgar Mhlanga supported a petition by the SA Medical Association to remove Basson from the medical practitioners' roll. Basson wants Hugo and Mhlanga to recuse themselves from the committee. Judge Bert Bam asked Cilliers why the matter was urgent. Cillers said Judge Selby Baqwa had studied the application and ruled it was urgent. "The urgency of the matter has been decided, my Lordship. This today is not a new application." Bam said Hugo had indicated in affidavits that he was a member of the SA Medical Association and the Rural Doctors Association of SA. "What more do you want from this? From the documentation, Joubert seemed to have suggested that the issue on organisation membership be heard in camera and you agreed," he said, referring to Salie Joubert, for the HPCSA. Cilliers said he did agree, although he did not support that the matter be discussed privately. The committee refused to provide the defence with the information on Hugo and Mhlanga it had asked for. Cilliers said he did not trust the committee. "I am entitled to put it on record that I don't trust them... I am ready to go on record about that. They might bring an application against me, but I am ready to say it." "Well Mr Cilliers, that's your problem," Bam replied. Basson was found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the HPCSA in December 2013, following an eight-year long inquiry. The inquiry was held to determine whether Basson acted unethically during his work on the apartheid government's chemical and biological weapons project, Project Coast, during the 1980s and early 1990s. Basson, in his defence, claimed he had acted as a soldier and not a doctor. Basson was 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 was 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 hold an inquiry. The State appealed against the decision of the high court in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed. The State then went to the Constitutional Court, but that case was dismissed in September 2005. Sapa /gm/jje/ks/th