‘Basson’s statement almost a confession’
Doctor accused of using emotional blackmail
DR WOUTER Basson all but admitted to breaking all the codes of ethics which bound him to his medical profession, and so it was a natural assumption that the professional tribunal trying him for acting unprofessionally would find him guilty, a human rights activist said yesterday.
Admitting that he had overseen and participated in the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons broke all rules of the medical profession, doctor and human rights activist Marjorie Jobson said.
“When you are a doctor you do not chose to be one on some days, and ignore it to be another professional the next,” she said.
She spoke at the end of a two-day presentation of heads of argument by the legal teams involved in the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) case yesterday, where Basson’s legal defence argued that he had participated in the development of the harmful substances in his capacity as a soldier.
In arguing that his client be absolved of all charges, Advo- cate Jaap Cilliers SC said: “He had been acting in his capacity as a soldier, with his medical training in the background.”
He said the then 30-year-old doctor had just joined the defence force, and could not defy instructions to develop the required substances when his boss instructed him to do so.
In asking the committee overseeing the tribunal to find Basson guilty on all charges, pro forma complainant Advocate Salie Joubert said: “He could not have disassociated himself from his profession as a medical practitioner.”
Joubert said Basson had been a medical practitioner in the service of the South African Medical Services, and had remained a medical practitioner throughout.
Jobson, of apartheid crimes national membership organisation Khulumani, said that when a medical practitioner took his oaths all people became equal in his eyes, and they were all human beings whose lives needed saving and preserving.
Basson faces four charges related to his activities as project manager of the apartheidera Project Coast and Delta G Scientific, in which he put to use his expertise as a chemical and biological expert. He has been accused of launching a chemical attack on South Africans, and of using a combination of material from Israel, China and Brazil to make the weapons.
When he took the stand at the hearing earlier this year, Basson admitted to having produced agents like teargas and incapacitating substances, saying they had been required for crowd control, to be used in townships where people burnt and killed each other and destroyed state property.
Yesterday his defence called those “mad times”, and said Basson’s decisions were based on the ambiance of the day. Cilliers reminded the committee that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had threatened to leave the country because of the violence.
When Basson showed the hearing video footage of people burning and dying, and mentioning that mortars he had weaponised and sent to Angola was meant to save the lives of South African troops working alongside rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, he was accused of using emotional blackmail to evoke sympathy from the committee.
When he said the cyanide suicide capsules he had helped manufacture were to save soldiers from painful deaths in captivity, he was again slated for trying to evoke emotions.
After both legal teams closed their heads of argument, the case was closed, to be back before the committee on December 18 for judgment.
IN DEFENCE: Wouter Basson ‘was just following orders’.