Basson claims conduct committee was biased

2016-02-09 21:51
Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria – Cardiologist and apartheid-era chemical warfare head Wouter Basson believes he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct before any evidence against him had been heard.

Basson has applied to the High Court in Pretoria to set aside a March 2015 decision by two members of a Health Professions Council (HPCSA) professional conduct committee not to recuse themselves from the proceedings against him. He claims they were biased.

In December 2013, the committee, headed by Prof Jannie Hugo, found Basson guilty on four counts of unprofessional and unethical conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the apartheid government's chemical and biological warfare programme between 1981 and 1992.

The committee found Basson acted unethically when he co-ordinated the large-scale production of illegal psychoactive drugs, equipped mortars with teargas, and provided military operatives with disorientating substances to facilitate illegal cross-border kidnappings.

It found he acted unethically by making cyanide for South African soldiers so they could commit suicide if captured, and that he had violated the medical ethical principle of "first do no harm".

Last January, the High Court ruled that Basson was entitled to lodge a recusal application against the members of the committee and interdicted the committee from continuing in Basson's absence.

The proceedings before the HPCSA had been stayed pending the application of Basson's review application.

Basson alleged the conduct of Hugo and fellow committee member Prof Eddie Mhlanga created a perception of bias.

He said in an affidavit their conduct should be seen in light of the fact that they had granted the prosecution a postponement of almost a year to search the world for an expert to contradict concessions another expert had made in his favour.

When his hearing started in 2007, the respondents were already siding with the prosecution, he said.

“It is clearly the view of the respondents that the mere fact that a medical doctor enlisted in the military during the 1980s was unethical and unprofessional conduct, despite compulsory legislation to that effect.”

He asked how he could expect an unbiased hearing under such conditions.

"I was clearly already guilty in the subjective perception of the respondents, before any evidence had been heard," he said.

Basson's advocate Jaap Cilliers argued that any decision to strike Basson from the roll would remain in effect until after the outcome of any appeals, which would destroy Basson's career as a cardiologist and ruin him financially.

He said the fact that Basson was forced to go to court before Hugo admitted being a member of the Medical Association, which agitated for his removal from the roll, showed he was biased.

This was despite Hugo's protestation that he never signed the petition.

Mhlanga was a member of the Rural Doctor's Association, which also signed a petition for Basson's removal.

The two petitions were allowed as evidence in aggravation of sentence, despite Basson's objections.

Salie Joubert SC, who was also representing the complainants in Basson's HPCSA hearing, argued that his application was an attempt to avoid the inevitable.

The application continues before Acting Judge David Unterhalter.

Read more on:    wouter basson  |  pretoria

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