Basson ‘showed no respect for medical profession’

2015-01-19 14:53

Medical practitioners were shocked by remarks by apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson about labour unrest at Marikana platinum mine in the North West, the HPCSA has heard.

He apparently said in a radio interview that Marikana would not have happened if the police used chemical weapons he had developed decades ago, the Health Professions Council of SA was told at a hearing today.

“I listened to the interview and could not believe what I was hearing,” said University of Cape Town lecturer and clinical pharmacologist, Professor Marc Blockman.

“I called my colleagues and they listened and sat there in shock... here was a man who had been found guilty a few minutes ago, and held an interview showing no responsibility or respect for the profession.”

Blockman was called by the HPSCA to testify in mitigation of sentencing.

The radio interview took place in December 2013, shortly after Basson was found guilty of professional misconduct by the HPCSA.

Salie Joubert, for the HPCSA, asked Blockman what he thought about the interview.

Blockman said there was a sense of arrogance in Basson’s voice.

“From what I heard, there was no ounce of remorse in what he was saying; that Marikana would not have happened if his chemical weapons were used by police... there was a level of arrogance in his voice,” said Blockman.

He said the upholding of good professional conduct and doing what was morally right was important in the medical profession.

On August 16 2012, 34 people, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police near Lonmin mine in Marikana, North West.

More than 70 others were wounded. In the preceding week, 10 people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed.

The HPSCA inquiry was held to determine whether Basson acted unethically in the exercise of his duties as a chemical warfare expert.

In his defence, Basson presented nine arguments in which he claimed he acted as a soldier and not a doctor, and that he was not aware of the ethics.

The inquiry related to Basson’s involvement in Project Coast, between the 1980s and early 1990s.

Basson was accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and tear gas, 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 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 continue with 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.

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