23 Jan 2015 16:00pm
COURT LETS BASSON BRING RECUSAL BID Cardiologist Dr Wouter Basson may apply for the recusal of two members of the HPCSA committee sentencing him for unprofessional conduct, the High Court in Pretoria ruled on Friday. "The applicant is granted the right to institute the application for the recusal for the first and second respondents, if he is inclined to do so, within 10 days of this order," Judge Bert Bam said. The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) was ordered to pay Basson's legal costs. "... It cannot be said that the application is frivolous or merely part of delaying tactics, as suggested by the respondents. The applicant was justified to bring the application," Bam found. An application for a presiding officer to recuse himself was a serious matter. "Not only will an order in this regard materially affect the proceedings, but it will surely have a devastating effect on the officer in question," Bam ruled. In such matters, the law required that there should be a real apprehension of bias and not mere suspicion, he said. Basson obtained an interdict on Monday preventing the HPCSA's professional conduct committee from continuing sentencing proceedings against him. Jaap Cilliers, for Basson, alleged that chairman Prof Frikkie Hugo and committee member Prof Roland Edgar Mhlanga had supported a petition by the SA Medical Association to remove Basson from the medical practitioners' roll. Both denied being involved in the compilation of the petition or being signatories to it. Basson wants Hugo and Mhlanga to recuse themselves from the committee. In December 2013, the HPCSA found Basson guilty of unprofessional conduct 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/fg/th/cls