Former chemical and biological warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson was trying to create an atmosphere not based on facts, a professional conduct committee in Pretoria heard on Thursday.
Salie Joubert, representing complainants against Basson, argued before the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) that Basson’s application for the recusal of the committee’s chairman Prof Jannie Hugo and fellow committee member Prof Eddie Mahlanga had no substance and should be dismissed.
He accused Basson of not being truthful about his alleged suspicion that the committee was biased in favour of the complainants, and of distorting the facts.
“Dr Basson now realises that the shoe pinches and attempts to vitiate the proceedings… He is trying to create an atmosphere which is not based on the facts,” he said.
Joubert argued that Basson lacked bona fides and had devised a plan to confront Hugo so he could later argue bias in order to avoid the inevitable.
He said the committee had to impose a penalty and Basson’s remedy lay in either an internal appeal, or in an appeal to the high court if he was unhappy with the findings.
Basson’s advocate Jaap Cilliers referred to proceedings before the committee in January as “a Laurel and Hardy” show.
He argued that Hugo’s refusal to disclose whether he was a member of any of the organisations which signed petitions asking for Basson’s removal from the roll of medical professionals was “absolutely absurd” and showed he was biased.
Joubert said Hugo had never concealed his membership of the SA Medical Association (Sama), which was a signatory to one of the petitions to strike off Basson, and stressed that Basson was also a Sama member. In December 2014, the HPCSA found Basson guilty of unethical and unprofessional 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 had 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 capsules available to South African soldiers for them to commit suicide if captured, and had violated the medical ethical principle of “first do no harm”.
The high court in January ruled that Basson was entitled to lodge a recusal application against the members of the committee. It interdicted the committee from continuing in Basson’s absence. The hearing continues. SAPA