Lawyer: Basson ouster petition insignificant

2014-11-27 14:55
Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - The majority of doctors had refused to sign a petition calling for embattled Cape Town cardiologist Wouter Basson to be struck off the list of medical practitioners, an HPCSA sentencing hearing heard on Thursday.

"I imagine most medical practitioners received the petitions. You obtained 230 doctors out of 39 000 to sign your petition. It sounds very impressive," Basson's lawyer Jaap Cilliers SC told the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) hearing in Pretoria.

He was cross-examining legal advocacy group Section27 executive director Mark Heywood.

Cilliers said the number of doctors endorsing Basson's ousting was insignificant.

Heywood responded: "Yes, 230 out of 39 000 is a small number of the profession. If you look at the names on the petition, I would not argue that the most distinguished medical professionals and researchers in South Africa are insignificant.

"To suggest that they are insignificant, I would argue, is profoundly mistaken and disrespectful of the leading researchers."

Cilliers said he was talking about the numbers.

Heywood responded: "I am talking names."

He said submitting that the majority of medical practitioners "refused to sign" was a wrong inference, but they had refrained from signing "for whatever reason".

On Wednesday, Heywood said he was representing two groups of petitioners who had made recommendations for Basson's ejection.

"One of those groups represents many of the most distinguished health professionals, professors and researchers in South Africa. The petition sets out the views of the formal medical community," said Heywood.

"These are all members of the Health Professions Council of SA and many have been members for decades."

He said the first lobby to the hearing was in the form of an online petition signed by 230 "concerned health professionals".

Included among these were Professor Slim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for Aids Programme of Research in SA, Professor Haroon Salojee, head of community paediatrics at Wits University, and Professor Mpiko Ntsekhe, head of cardiology at the University of Cape Town.

The second petition was from the People's Health Movement, endorsed by 32 organisations involved in health and medicine, law and human rights.

The first part of the petition reads: "Why Dr Basson deserves to be struck off the medical register - We call upon the HPCSA to strike Dr Basson off the medical register because his actions and denials show that he has no remorse and lacks understanding of right and wrong.

"It is time that apartheid's agents, who thought they could act with impunity, account for their complete disregard of human rights and the norms of our South African democracy," Heywood read from the petition.

Organisations on the petition include Medicins Sans Frontieres SA, the SA Medical Association, and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies.

Medical ethics

Heywood said the organisations wanted Basson booted out because he had shown disregard for medical ethics.

Basson's HPCSA sentencing hearing began on Wednesday. In December last year the HPCSA found Basson guilty of unprofessional conduct.

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

He 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 then Unita leader Jonas Savimbi.

He was also accused of acting unethically by providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings, and by making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the North Gautent High Court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct.

The State appealed against this decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed.

The State then went to the Constitutional Court, but the case was dismissed in September 2005.

The HPCSA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to continue with an inquiry.

On Thursday, Heywood said the HPCSA had found Basson guilty of very serious transgressions.

"He was found guilty of preparing substances which made it easier to kidnap people in foreign countries. We know as a matter of fact from the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that people were not kidnapped and brought home to go to the beach," said Heywood.

"They were kidnapped and brought home for the purpose of torture and murder. You just have to read the recent book by Vusi Pikoli to understand that."

Cilliers retorted: "I am not reading any book."

Read more on:    wouter basson  |  pretoria  |  health

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