Wouter Basson Guilty of Unethical and Unprofessional Conduct

Wouter Basson charge

The findings by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) that Dr. Wouter Basson was guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct prompted a look again at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) report.

The TRC was set up by the Government of National Unity to deal with the gross human rights abuses during the period 1960 to 1994.  The conflict during this time resulted in violence and abuse from all sides. There was no part of the South African Society that escaped these abuses. The TRC consistently attempted to promote reconciliation and allowed the public to express their regret of past sinful deeds and meet their challenge to reconciliation.

Dr Wouter Basson is a South African Cardiologist and the former head of the country’s secretive chemical and biological warfare plan during the apartheid era. Basson was charged with 67 charges including murder and his trial began in October 1991. After 18 months of trial his charges were reduced to 56. In 2002 all the charges against him were dismissed and he was granted amnesty. The state appealed the case and the request for a retrial was refused in 2003. The state appealed this decision, but this was dismissed in the Supreme Court of Appeal. The state then approached the Constitutional Court in its bid for a retrial, but this was dismissed in 2005.

In 2006, the HPCSA began its own investigation into the conduct of Basson. A charge sheet was drawn up, and an investigation began in November 2007. Seven charges were leveled against him and three eventually withdrawn. During 2010 Wouter Basson’s application to the High Court to have the charges set aside as unlawful, was rejected and the inquiry against him continued.

The HPCSA hearing related to charges against Basson from his participation in the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare program. During December 2013 Wouter Basson was found guilty of unprofessional conduct. He was found guilty of being implicated in the large scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and teargas. Basson presented arguments at the investigation and claimed he had acted as a soldier and not as a doctor and was not aware of the ethics.

Sentencing will take place during February 2014.

The guilty verdict by the HPCSA of unethical and unprofessional conduct of Wouter Basson triggers a matter of integrity within the boundaries of this trial.

It is interesting that someone like Dr. Veejay Ramlakan, a former Surgeon General of the Army and head of the medical team, which for a time was in charge of care of former President Nelson Mandela, has never had to appear before the HPCSA.

Lieutenant General Vejaynand Ramlakan, a South African military commander and medical doctor who served in Umkhonto weSizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC) during the apartheid era. In 1994,, the MK was incorporated into the South African National Defense Force.

From 1977, he received extensive military training in South African and Swaziland. He was vice president and general secretary of the Natal Health Worker’s Association and a founding member of the United Democratic Front (UDF). As part of the structures of the MK, he was involved in the military operation Butterfly. This was a code name for the ANC’s military wing to develop communication structures to ensure a degree of control. The aim was to communicate and place people in a strategic place around the country. This was the intended purpose to partake in a guerilla warfare maneuver to end the apartheid government and free the oppressed.

Ramlakan remained active within the military and political participation of the ANC.

He recruited people and trained them in the use of explosive and planned the Rajbansi incident. This was a bomb blast which occurred in front of the house of the late Mr. Amichand Rajbansi, a well known Durban politician.  This was one of the five incidents he was involved with during the freedom struggle.

He was imprisoned on Robben Island between 1987 and 1991.

Ramlakan remained active within the political party of the ANC and was appointed as Chief of the South African National Defense Force Corporate staff delegates in 2011.

Ramlakan applied for amnesty from the TRC for inter alia the explosion, which occurred in front of the house of the late Mr. Amichand Rajbansi, This was one of the incidents under the code name “Operation Butterfly” He acknowledged this fact before the TRC.

Together with Dr. Ramlakan in the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) unit was Dr. (Brigadier General) Sibongiseni Dhlomo, now Kwa Zulu Natal’s MEC for Health. He applied for amnesty for four incidents, all connected with explosions in 1985, in shopping malls within Durban, and surrounding areas.

In 1985, both Ramlakan and Dhlomo were practicing doctors. Wasn’t their conduct also unethical and unprofessional? Wouter Basson was a practicing doctor during that time and he was found guilty of unethical and unprofessional conduct.

By Laura Oneale

KZN Health

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