News24

Look at me through 1980s glasses - Basson

2012-03-26 22:56

Pretoria - Cardiologist Wouter Basson testified before the Health Professions Council of SA on Monday that his involvement in South Africa's chemical and biological warfare programmes was aimed at saving lives.

"The guidelines were given by the surgeon general, who was a medical doctor of international standing and who advised several governments in other countries," he said.

"As a medical doctor I could live with the idea that I was preventing injuries and death through my involvement in developing the substances."

Basson faces four charges of unprofessional and unethical conduct.

The charges relate to his conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the country's chemical and biological warfare research programme for the defence force in the 1980s and early 1990s during the apartheid era.

He testified that the surgeon general and chief of the defence force had approached him in the early 1980s to develop a system to protect the country against chemical and biological warfare.

It was assumed at that time that the Cubans, backed by Russian and German advisers, were using chemical weapons in the war in Angola.

Basson said he was put in charge of planning the chemical warfare project, which eventually resulted in the formation of the top secret facility known as Delta G.

Although he gave guidelines to the scientists at Delta G, he said he did not have an office at the facility and visited it only "clandestinely" a few times at night.

He also received instructions from the surgeon general to meet with the head of the police's forensic services, because the police needed a "humane way" to control crowds.

Shocked to the core

Basson said the council needed to look at his decisions "with 1980s glasses" and in the context of the times.

"At those meetings [with the police] I was exposed to video footage of violence that shocked me to the core," he said.

"Few people today remember that violence. For good reasons we gloss over it, but it was the type of violence that even caused Archbishop Desmond Tutu to say 'if it does not stop, I'll leave the country'.

"My recollection is that I felt I could make a difference... I could stop that senseless violence and damage to property by breaking the cohesion of the crowd that is involved," he said.

Basson also showed a video clip to the council of a man being stoned and set alight by a crowd.

"This is what was shown to me and what I experienced. The police told me they could not control such situations... I decided to participate in the development of incapacitating substances to control crowds," he said.

"Seeing those videos again gave me the same feeling of stress and heart palpitations. We're looking at a crowd that is totally oblivious - children were involved. It was like a Sunday picnic."

He said the weapons never advanced to the pre-production level and that the substances were never used on the ground.

However, he did admit that mortars loaded with tear gas were supplied to rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in Angola, but said the aim was not to kill anyone, just to incapacitate them.

"I used very little, if any, of my medical training, but I could use my training in ethics, namely the respect for life. I could see to it that the guidelines of the project were properly drawn up," he said.

Basson admitted supplying "suicide" cyanide capsules to the special forces commander at the time, but said it was up to the commander to decide how to supply them to his operatives and for the operatives to make informed decisions on when to use them.

The hearing continues.

Comments
  • veritas.odium.paret - 2012-03-27 00:28

    I don't understand people's paranoia about ''what if he uses his knowledge to kill us?'' I mean, any operating surgeon most likely knows which atery or vein to clamp in order to cause death but, does it mean they'll do it? Not likely. From what (little) I understand about the whole Project Coast thing, the man simply provided his expertise to what he believed was a cause to defend his state in terms of chemical and bio-warfare and providing ways to incapacitate 'hostile groups'. I think only two things should matter now: 1. Did he intently commit any verifiable atrocities (a la the likes of Josef Mengele's) for which he deserves punishment? 2. Does he PRESENTLY still deal with poisons and incapacitants, in which case, it would be best to just excuse him from medical practice?

      mary.kircher - 2012-03-27 02:47

      thank God for the voice of reason

      Andrew - 2012-03-27 08:46

      What about the poisoning of Frank Chikane, who was the head of the South African Council of Churches? So much for only fighting communism!!Evil is evil ...whether it was 1980 or 2012!!

      jpstrauss - 2012-03-27 09:16

      Oh I'm sure it will be drowned out eventually.

      amanda.victor2 - 2012-03-27 09:40

      How about the deaths at Quatro from the ANC? When will they investigate that?

      Andrew - 2012-03-27 10:26

      @amanda...two wrongs dont make a right...let's stick to the issue of a doctor providing poison to kill. It was wrong in the 80's the same as it is wrong today.

      Smell - 2012-03-28 07:41

      So Andrew are we to assume that you were actively canvassing for appropriate punishment for the atrocities committed by ANC members like McBride? Two wrongs do not make a right you know... PS: Why did you move to London in 2012? The likes of Basson have been out of power since 1994, so you should have remained in paradise.

      sarah.bouttell - 2012-03-28 09:17

      If you can not abide by the hyp oath, then you should be banned from medicine. Just to refesh his memory, it goes something like this: "First do NO HARM'. Not difficult to grasp.

      Smell - 2012-03-28 18:18

      Sarah, as far as I know the oath that you are referring too pertains to patient care. Otherwise, during a state of war, physicians would not be able to defend themselves forcefully or be part of a preemptive attack. The issues are the following: a. Did Basson do anything that contravened the regulations of the SAMDC as stipulated at the time of his association with the SADF. b. Did Basson break any law on the books at that time? c. Did Basson commit any crimes against humanity? The larger issue is of course whether it should be illegal/unethical for doctors to be associated with the development of weaponry, including chemical weapons. In that sense he should be judged in terms of his peer group - to what standards are physicians held in other developed democracies?

  • Howard - 2012-03-27 00:43

    He is a very clever who worked for his country at the time. Let him get on with his life

      Makatikamusona - 2012-03-27 00:50

      Great, I now have something to put you in the correct category, and is not a good category trust me.

  • cvh23 - 2012-03-27 02:05

    The HPCSA claims that he used his medical knowledge to do damage to life by making tear gas and cyanide pills. He used his chemical and scientific knowledge to make tear gas and cyanide. No medical school or university on earth teaches their students how to make cyanide or tear gas. Hence the claim that he used his medical knowledge to make these substances are completely false, and this whole thing is politically driven. He has been found innocent by the supreme court of all criminal charges after 15 grueling years, so people who believe that he should be 'jailed' or 'hanged' should either provide evidence for their claims, or keep quiet, stop undermining the legal process and respect a very thorough supreme court trial and judgement.

      Jason - 2012-03-27 06:46

      Actually chemistry is considered a part of the health profession, which is why pharmacists need a medical qualification albeit not quite as long as a MD.

      cvh23 - 2012-03-27 10:15

      No medical school teaches you how to make cyanide or teargas. He is arguably one of the best cardiologists in the world, and South Africa has a severe shortage of those.

  • Dave - 2012-03-27 03:23

    @ Siyadyosibu, Some of your post really makes sense and I agree with you fully. I by no means am trying to justify the past, but show a different prospective. There was and is wrong doing from both sides in my opinion. But I must point out your comment about Africans living in total harmony and with the practice of "ubuntu" and us whites bringing bring money which brought murder, hatred and all bad things a little incorrect. Let’s just take one well known African leader Shaka Zulu for example. In his short rule of around 10 yrs, he assassinated his brother Sigujane and later betrayed his mentor to gain total control over the kingdom. He regularly ran raids on Nguni and Ndwandwe chiefdoms stealing their cattle. Their strategy was either destroy them, (any other tribes, Themba or Chunu)or drive them off their land as refugees. On the home front the King basically owned all women and he alone would allow one of his men the right to marry. If sexual intercourse was suspected before permission was granted you were put to death!! Yes all lived in harmony....clearly I have a different opinion on living in harmony with love and happiness my friend. My point is this, please at least be honest with yourself and know your own history. Yes the white people did bring and do things we are ashamed of and regret, but we also did many good things. Just one is democracy, because before that you all served the King and had no freedom other than what he allowed.

      Marion - 2012-03-27 08:09

      Please do not forget Shaka's cruelty to his people when his mother died. Insofar as Dr Basson goes, I don't know enough to comment but I would not be comfortable having him for my doctor.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-03-27 08:57

      Marion I agree on not knowing enough on Dr, Basson to comment, but I can comment on him, now, being a doctor. He is a savior of many and are dear to the hart of all he treated. He is on of the better one and helping where he can. He is, to my and others's opinion, one of the few that is less money and more patient driven. He also treat all and do a lot of good work across all " flavors" in South Africa. Even where some cant afford a doctor of his caliber he make a plan and help. This benefits mostly the ones "that do not have" Seeing and hearing his credentials from ALL walks of life I h'v decided not to comment on what appears in the media or get politically played, so far, but trusting him as a doctor you can.

      Marion - 2012-03-27 09:43

      @DuToitCoetzee - thank you for showing us the other side of the coin that is Dr Wouter Basson.

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-03-27 09:52

      Marion, being a true Libra, I always believe one have to have all sides, knowledge, info, etc, to balance something.;) In this case I h'v heard stuff through the media and know that they failed to prosecute him and I know the part mentioned on top and still I will not judge because the part above I know for sure, but the other I have to rely on a informant that makes its money through creating sensation and our even less trusted friend, politics.

  • Nande - 2012-03-27 05:01

    I think holistically we have disseminated away from the issue at hand. The topic is about a health practitioner who acted unethically in accordance to his jobs code of conduct. Yes the heinous acts were done during the apartheid era which becomes a relatively racial matter but why subject the story to a narrow conception? The article also spoke about Mozambique and I don't See anyone highlighting that.

  • Leonard - 2012-03-27 07:18

    Amazing cause more black people died of aids under rule of Mbeki then black people that died in the 60's 70's and 80's under apartheid rule Open ur hatred racist eyes and see the truth for once.

      Sidney Gilroy - 2012-03-27 08:02

      Idiot. HIV infection rate rose with 1033 % since 1994. From 1.5 million to 17 million. South Africans are surpassing the Germans in genocide records. Only, ours is self-inflicted.

      Carol - 2012-03-27 08:19

      What a racist comment - aids is a health issue not a political issue - of course you do not know your facts at all (or don't want to) - Wouter Basson deserves everything he gets - how can he get away with such Nazi crimes -

      Marion - 2012-03-27 08:19

      @Leonard - Thank your lucky stars that you do not have HIV/AIDS. It is a disease that is not confined to SA and highly unlikely that Thabo Mbeki deliberately had a denialist attitude to deciminate the population. Also, HIV/AIDS has nothing to do with Wouter Basson's endeavours to be a medical doctor now. Although, seeing he is such an innovative and wonderful scientist they should put him to work on finding a cure for HIV/AIDS!

      Andrew - 2012-03-27 08:57

      @Leonard...two wrongs dont make a right!!

  • bluzulu - 2012-03-27 07:30

    Sad excuses from an unscrupulous character , You had the right to say NO, Dr. Basson and now you want to blame the corrupt government at the time for YOUR decision. Sorry , whatever happened to the Oath you swore to abide to...You know the one or is that the fault of the Government at the time as well. Here was your oppotunity to instate yourself as a real RSA whom will in no way be responsible for any of this carry on

      schalk.mattheys - 2012-03-27 14:12

      blu, you seem to be missing the point that Dr. Basson can be an asset to SA, unlike most of the other oxygen theives that were granted amnesty 15 years ago for actually commiting blatant and open murders. Cirmes that were all forgiven, with a sniff and a tear. What makes Dr. Basson so different that he cannot be forgiven and enjoy amnesty also. How many people did he shoot? These other amnesty applicants shot defenceless people worshiping in churches, defenceless people having drinks in a tavern!?

      bluzulu - 2012-03-27 17:45

      This current issue is in front of a Medical council regarding his Ethics and the evidence clearly dictates he was in the wrong hence there should only be one real conclusion here,

      bluzulu - 2012-03-27 17:51

      @ Schalk, He may have not pulled a trigger however as a Medical professional sworn to Oath, he committed a crime. Regarding the McBride's of RSA, These were freedom fighter NOT terrorist. If anyone is to blame for the death of innocent Black and White RSA citizens, It would be the Apartheid government not the freedom fighters. History shows freedom was tried by Passive resistance and we got nowhere hence the fight was taken to the next level, If this had not happenedd, We would not be a Democracy today. Please understand ,if this was a Black Doctor of any of the RSA cultures...The opinion would be the same.

  • bernard.ingram - 2012-03-27 07:31

    Stop dwelling in the past and move on SA! FFS!

      siyadyosiba - 2012-03-27 11:48

      nobody is dwelling in the past. just another criminal being brought to book for offences he committed in the past, same like other criminals.

      schalk.mattheys - 2012-03-27 14:01

      @ siya...sorry bru, dont agree, crimes commited during the "apartheid" era under the guise of being politically motivated were supposed to have been sorted out by the TRC 15 years ago...you forget that most of the current SA government and cabinet members were granted amnesty, some did not even stand before the TRC! There were guys who shot and grenaded worshipers in St James Church and who shot up people at Heidelberg Tavern, these crimes were even forgiven by the murdered peoples families...what did Basson do to exclude him from the same amnesty that these criminals and murderes enjoy!? This is pure and simple double standards! complete and utter BS!

  • Pieter - 2012-03-27 07:56

    Stupid government.

      Herman - 2012-03-27 08:01

      You forgot criminal and incompetent.

  • Pieter - 2012-03-27 08:11

    Attention should be drawn to problems at hand and plans should be made to better the future of SA, stop blubbering in the past, this is a brilliant man who if used correctly will have a great influence in the post 1994 sircus

      Marion - 2012-03-27 08:49

      Put him to work to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

  • jurgen.eksteen - 2012-03-27 08:14

    Our Police force uses the very same teargas that Basson researched ... in every service delivery protests they are firing that stuff into the crowds so what exactly is the problem here? The USA, Russia, UK, etc has a much better definition of chemical and biological warfare where they actually made and have extremely dangerous weaponized chemicals and germs and not just measly cyanide pills and teargas!! In my opinion Dr Basson had so many blatantly wrongful legal pursuits against him from government, etc. that he can take a nice chunk out of the government in counter suits.

  • TataKaAmandla - 2012-03-27 08:39

    some of the people commenting here are biased. when we read about rhino poarching, rapes, murders etc. we always say those perpetrators should be hanged, shot on sight and yada yada. But why we don't say the same thing with Dr. Basson? He participated in the killings one way or another and people DIED. Please my fellow citizens, look at it in this way. It was a crime, finish and klaar!

      schalk.mattheys - 2012-03-27 10:33

      Did Basson walk into a church with handgrenades and R4's and slaughter worshipers indiscriminately? NO! Did he walk into a tavern and indiscriminately slaughter the taverns patrons? NO! People who commtied these crimes got amnesty, and have been walking around as free citizens since 15 years ago already! Why is Basson still being investigated and demonized because he assisted in what he thought would save lives? Talk about double standards...

  • Daniel - 2012-03-27 09:30

    I wish they can just leave him alone by now!!! This man is a genius - rather have him on your side that against you!!!

  • mmoledis - 2012-03-27 09:31

    There is no truth there let Basson tell the whole truth.

  • Stephen - 2012-03-27 09:39

    Give the man a Bell's or two or three even. One day you bleeding heart,no-hoper liberal types will be calling upon the likes of him to save your pathetic white skins and in fact those of the entire white race worldwide because enentually th...e indigeni and mud races of this planet are going to rise up and bite that hand that feeds because that is the nature of the beast.They are destroyers not creators.Its a basic law of the Universe that cannot be changed. But it can be controlled.So be warned.

  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-27 09:43

    Nothing but a race based attempt at imposing a penalty they are not entitled to, the the Health Professions Council of SA is trying to make an issue of nothing, and doing their best to destroy someone who they believe fought for the wrong side. Had Dr Basson worked for the ANC's MK, this hearing would have never been convened in the first place.

  • Warmonger - 2012-03-27 10:08

    Enough already, I think it is high time the man is left to get on with his life!! And we all know this place we call south africa is in (DIRE!!) need of medical Doctors.. Let's all just get on with our live's already...

  • schalk.mattheys - 2012-03-27 10:22

    Is this not what the TRC was devised to take care of? Why is this still being investigated? Many people were granted amnesty for atrocities commited all justified in one way or another as having been commiteda as part of "fighting" for what they believed in. Did Basson walk into a church with handgrenades and R4's and slaughter worshipers indiscriminately? NO! Did he walk into a tavern and indiscriminately slaughter the taverns patrons? NO! People who commtied these crimes got amnesty, and have been walking around as free citizens since 15 years ago already! Why is Basson still being investigated and demonized because he assisted in what he thought would save lives? Talk about double standards...

      schalk.mattheys - 2012-03-27 14:03

      Eish Barend, enough to drive an oke to drink man...

  • jannie.vanwyk3 - 2012-03-27 12:53

    Dr.Basson is a fantastic cardiologist and scientist . He was caught up in a war and did what he thought was right for South Africa . All of us who served in the SADF albeit as conscripts should therefore be guilty if these are the reasons to try and nail him.Would the doctors who served in 32 Batallion , Koevoet , recces and reaction forces be less guilty ?

      bluzulu - 2012-03-27 17:48

      Good point, If they have committed crimes then they should be fronting this council as well.

  • Chris - 2012-03-28 08:23

    Why can't Dr Wouter Basson be given a medal for all his hard work....He never killed anybody!!!!!Robert Mc Bride killed many in the Magoo's night club bombing and he gets treated like royalty. Perhaps you need to murder to enjoy the fruits of this ANC governments loins....

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