‘We are impartial’: HPCSA

FILE PICTURE: Wouter Basson. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Accusations that the HPCSA committee sentencing former chemical and biological warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson is biased against him are untrue, chairman Prof Jannie Hugo said on Friday

He was reacting to Basson’s accusation that the committee was biased against him even before his disciplinary hearing commenced. Basson’s counsel Jaap Cilliers SC applied on Thursday for the recusal of Hugo and fellow committee member Prof Eddie Mahlanga, arguing that there was a clear perception of bias on Hugo’s part because he did not disclose his membership or association with organisations which signed a petition agitating for Basson’s removal from the medical roll.

“I took no part in the decision to support the petition. I did not think it necessary, as a requirement, when I was given the details of Sama’s [the SA Medical Association] involvement, to disclose the fact of my membership,” Hugo told the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) in Pretoria.

“I firmly believed no reasonable person could think that the mere fact of my membership disqualifies me. We do not think a person in the position of Dr Basson could reasonable conclude that we might be biased.”

Petitions by Sama and the Rural Doctor’s Association of SA were handed in as evidence in aggravation against Basson last year.

Hugo is a member of both organisations. On Friday, he said Basson would get a fair trial.

Sentencing continues in May.

Basson was found guilty in December 2013 of unprofessional conduct as a medical doctor when he headed the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme between 1981 and 1992.

The HPCSA found he had acted medically 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 also found he had acted unethically by making cyanide capsules available to South African soldiers for suicide purposes and had violated the medical ethical principle of “first do no harm”.

In January, the high court ruled that Basson was entitled to lodge a recusal application against the members of the committee and interdicted the committee from continuing in Basson’s absence.


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