The HPCSA's five-year long inquiry Wouter Basson's actions during apartheid will finally come to a close on December 18.
The HPCSA's five-year long inquiry Wouter Basson's actions during apartheid will finally come to a close on December 18.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) will rule on the national conduct inquiry of former apartheid chemical warfare agent Wouter Basson on December 18, according to the chairperson of the inquiry committee, Jannie Hugo.

The inquiry has been on-going for five years. If found guilty by the HPCSA, Basson could be barred from practicing as a doctor in South Africa.

The charges against Basson arise from his involvement in the apartheid government's chemical and biological warfare programme in the 1980s and early 1990s.

He is 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 Unita leader Jonas Savimbi.

Basson, nicknamed Dr Death, also faces charges of providing “disorientation substances for cross-border kidnapping” and providing cyanide capsules to members of operational forces to commit ­suicide in the event of capture.

Basson’s legal team argues that he was acting in his capacity as head of the the apartheid defence force's secret “Project Coast” in the 1980s and 1990s. His legal representative, advocate Jaap Cilliers, who also represented former police commissioner Jackie Selebi, said the charges should be viewed in the context of the “prevailing circumstances under which the decisions were made”.

Cilliers said Basson was not acting in the context of a doctor-patient relationship, or as a medical practitioner. “He was [acting as] a soldier with a medical qualification,” he said.

Cilliers said his client was acting under “specific instruction of the highest level of authority at the time. The substances [he provided and manufactured] did not cause any bodily harm, nor is there any evidence that the substance was even used,” he said.

However, the council’s Salie Joubert said this argument was irrelevant to the charges against Basson. Joubert said that it is disgraceful of a medical professional to manufacture such drugs.