Wouter Basson takes health council to court, claiming bias

web_photo_basson3_261114

Apartheid chemical and biological warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson makes a phone call during a break in proceedings at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday 21 February 2005.

JOHANNESBURG – Former biological warfare specialist Dr Wouter Basson is fighting efforts to have him removed from the national roll of doctors – this time going to court alleging that two of those judging him are biased. 

Basson has taken the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) along with Professional Conduct Committee members Professors Jannie Hugo and Eddie Mhlanga to court.

This application has the potential once again to delay the sentencing procedure in the case against Basson, first received in 2000. He was found guilty of four charges of misconduct in December 2013, but the sentencing process has been slow. 

Basson is currently practising as a cardiologist in Cape Town. 

In court papers Basson is alleging Hugo is biased against him because he is a member of two medical associations that petitioned for his removal from the medical profession.

Basson says Hugo is a member of the SA Medical Association (SAMA) and the Rural Doctors Association of South Africa (RUDASA).

“The failure by (Hugo) to disclose his membership of SAMA and ‘association’ with RUDASA, to disassociate him from the viewpoint of the said organisations, was of serious concern to me. I creates the impression that (Hugo) wanted to hide his membership and associations with these organisations in order to continue to preside in the proceedings,” Basson said in court papers.

"The further concern is that (Hugo) chose not to disclose his membershio becase he supported their viewpoints expressed in the petition,” he said.

He believes Hugo will not consider an appropriate penalty objectively.

Basson also points out that SAMA members were consulted regarding the submission of the petition before the hearing.

He also argues that the conduct committee was proceeding with “unreasonable urgency”.

Basson says the fact that the inquiry found him guilty of misconduct for things he did while serving in the military in the 1980s is in itself a sign of bias.

“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 unprofession conduct, despite compulsory legislation to that effect…The question that arises is on what conceivable basis can I expect an unbiased hearing or sentencing procedure, when the point of departure of the Respondents is that I was ‘not ture to his profession’, merely becase I was a member of the SADF,” he says in court papers.

Basson adds that he was “clearly already guilty in the subjective perception of respondents before any evidence had been heard.”

Basson’s legal team first made the allegation of bias during the inquiry in January, before asking Hugo and Mhlanga to remove themselves from the panel judging Basson.

When the two refused to recuse themselves, Basson and his legal team walked out of the inquiry. The conduct committee continued without them – something that Basson is now using in his court case as evidence of bias.

WATCH: What were Wouter Basson&39;s Project Coast laboratories like? 

 

The HPCSA, which adjudicates misconduct complaints against doctors, has been dealing with the complaint against Basson for more than a decade already. 

In court papers filed at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, Basson said he was first informed of the complaint against him in December 2000.

In 2001 a second complaint of professional misconduct was filed against Basson for his involvement in Project Coast, the Apartheid-era chemical weapons programme.

However his disciplinary inquiry only kicked off in June 2007 and Basson was facing six charges of misconduct.

However that inquiry soon ground to a halt when the pro-forma complainant’s key witness, Professor Solomon Benator made some admissions that supported Basson’s case.

The pro-forma prosecutor requested time to find another witness and in 2011 produced American Professor Steven Miles, who testified that Basson’s involvement in a biological warfare programme was contrary to the medical ethics code he is meant to uphold as a doctor.

During the inquiry, Basson argued that he was always acting as a soldier and not as a doctor.

The panel dismissed two of the charges and concluded that he was guilty of:

  • Coordinating the production of various drugs “on a major scale” including Mandrax (Methaqualone), MDMA (ecstasy), an incapacitating agent BZ and teargas.
  • Weaponising 120 mm mortars with teargas which the SA Defence Force supplied to the Unita rebels lead by Jonas Savimbi in Angola during the 1980s
  • Providing disorientating substances for use in over-the-border kidnapping operations
  • Making cyanide capsules available to operational officers in the SA military for suicide usage if caught by enemy combatants.

The HPCSA said it is aware of the application.

"The attorneys for the Council are still considering the papers," council spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana said.

"The application will in all likelihood be opposed." 

She would not comment on how this application was likely to affect the hearing. 

"Dr Basson is excercising his legal rights by exhausting all avenues available to him in law and the HPCSA respects the rule of law and Dr Basson&39;s legal rights in this regard," Sekhonyana said. 

There is no date set for the case to be heard.