Wouter Basson hearing will ignore criminal evidence

2013-07-15 16:51

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Evidence presented by Cape Town cardiologist Wouter Basson during his criminal trial will not be used in the hearing investigating his alleged unethical behaviour, the Health Professionals Council of SA has ruled.

“It is ruled that that should not be allowed in order to maintain consistency with previous rulings, consideration of fairness, and in order not to allow anything that will unduly protract the scope of the inquiry,” said Prof Jannie Hugo, chairman of the Health Professionals Council of SA’s professional conduct committee.

The hearing is into the charges of unethical conduct brought by the Health Professionals Council of SA against Basson before its professional conduct committee.

Salie Joubert, representing the Health Professionals Council of SA, told the hearing he would use evidence presented by Basson in his criminal case and at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He said he would also use this evidence during the cross-examination of Basson’s witness, Dr Niel Knobel.

Basson’s legal team objected, arguing this would delay proceedings, as this evidence was contained in a document of over 1 000 pages.

The team argued that bringing such evidence would also not be fitting to the scope of the hearing. This was echoed by the chairman’s legal adviser, retired Judge Frikkie Eloff.

The hearing adjourned and a few minutes later Hugo presented his ruling.

The charges arise from Basson’s involvement in the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme in the 1980s and early 1990s.

He is accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and tear gas, of weaponising tear gas, 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 Health Professionals Council of SA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to continue with an inquiry against Basson.

The state appealed 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 to appeal the decision. That was also dismissed in September 2005.

In 2006, the Health Professionals Council of SA started its own process of investigating Basson’s conduct. A charge sheet was drawn up and the inquiry began in November 2007. However, the inquiry was delayed when the Health Professionals Council of SA’s main expert witness fell ill. The inquiry resumed again in September 2008.

During the November 2008 hearing, Basson’s legal team argued that the case brought against him was unlawful and biased.

Basson’s legal team then went to the High Court in Pretoria to stop the inquiry. The matter was heard in the high court only in 2010. The court dismissed Basson’s application in May 2010.

The next month, Basson appealed the decision in the same court, but lost.

The hearing then resumed officially in September 2011.

In January 2012, Basson brought another application before the Health Professionals Council of SA’s professional conduct committee to dismiss the matter.

However, Basson’s application was dismissed.

The hearing continues tomorrow.

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