South Africa: Dr. Wouter Basson’s Misconduct Charges and his Biological Warfare Program

Dr. Wouter Basson, who led a covert operation – Project Coast – alleged to have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of regime opponents during the apartheid era, is facing misconduct charges by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA)


Project Coast is also said to have planned to develop “smart” poisons lethal only to black people, contaminated the water supply with cholera and spread HIV among ANC guerillas.


The 61-year-old, dubbed Dr Death by the local South African press, left the pay of the South African military in 1999 and now works as a successful private cardiologist in Cape Town.  Most of those accused of atrocities in the apartheid era were offered amnesty in return for their evidence before the South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee set up after Nelson Mandela came to power.  Dr Basson rejected the offer.


The misconduct inquiry by the Health Professionals Council of South Africa is one of just a handful since apartheid ended and a last-ditch attempt to bring him to account.  Dr Basson has said it is “politically motivated” and his skills are much-needed in the new South Africa.


The HPCSA has charged him with “unethical and/or unprofessional conduct pertaining to human rights violations”.  The inquiry focuses on his alleged manufacturing of sedatives, ecstasy, nerve agents and muscle relaxants and loading of mortars with teargas for use in South Africa’s war with left-wing rebels in Angola.  Other charges relate to tranquilizers made for use in over-the-border kidnappings of anti-apartheid fighters and other regime opponents, and cyanide tablets for South African special operatives to commit suicide when captured.


In his criminal trial, he faced 67 charges including involvement the murder of some 200 people fighting South African colonization in Namibia. His team allegedly also researched weapons ideas including sugar laced with salmonella, cigarettes with anthrax, chocolates with paralyzing toxins and whisky with herbicide.  It has been claimed by the US and UK that Dr Basson may have sold information on chemical and biological weapons to Col Gaddafi in Libya in the early 1990s.


He was acquitted of criminal wrong-doing on legal technicalities in a long-running criminal case.  In one instance, during that trial, it was alleged that Dr Basson was responsible for tying up three political prisoners to a tree overnight and smear their bodies with jelly-like lethal toxins. The primary aim was to test the toxic agent to see if it was capable of causing death. The men did not die as easily as expected.


The next day the men were found still clinging to life.  They were loaded them into a small plane and flown over the ocean. According to an article by South Africa’s Sunday Times, during the flight, it was alleged that the three men were injected with lethal muscle relaxants before dumping their bodies into the sea.



Dr Basson maintains that he was only following orders, and none of the substances he manufactured caused harm to anyone.  “I closed this chapter of my life about 20 years ago and now work as a dedicated medical practitioner helping hundreds of thousands of patients,” he said.  “This case is politically motivated. I just wish I could get on with my life.”


His hearing before the HPCSA’s professional conduct committee in Pretoria was postponed to January 26 for legal argument.



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