ON RESUMPTION ON 31.07.98
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Thank you, Mr Chair. Mr Chair, we are finally calling Dr Wouter Basson. I have been given to understand that there are certain preliminary applications which Dr Basson's counsel wish to make and maybe they should be given the opportunity to do so. Thank you, Mr Chair.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Cilliers?
MR CILLIERS: Thank you, Chairperson, members. There are a few aspects I'd like to take up. I wasn't present yesterday or the day before, but I received information with regards to certain aspects which was handled yesterday and the day before.
Firstly, with regards to a command which I thought you made, or an order rather, I don't know if it was yesterday or the day before, that he's obligated to testify, this is Dr Basson, despite of the fact that there are legal representatives or not, it's a situation, the fact I am now available and I'm the person with who Dr Basson consulted with regards to the preparation of this application, but it might be relevant later, and I gave Mr Vally notice of this, so at this stage may I just learn, is it indeed the order that Dr Basson must testify notwithstanding the fact if there are legal representatives or not?
CHAIRPERSON: That was the order that was given, Mr Cilliers, in context. It was an order that was made in the context, Mr Basson as you know had appeared before us on the 29th, the day before yesterday, and had made an application for a postponement to either yesterday or today, on the basis that he did not have legal representation. Argument was advanced, and at the end of all of it, the panel came to the conclusion that what he calls an entitlement to legal representation was no more a right that must compete with other rights, and that in the light thereof we were of the view that he had been given sufficient opportunity to arrange for legal representation, and that in the circumstances, evidence would have to be taken from him whether or not he was legally represented, and that was the base upon which we sought to take evidence from him yesterday, but as you understand, even so, we bent over backwards when once we learnt that you are available, and I see that more than you are available today, which is gratifying, but once it became clear that you were available, it was one of the factors that we took into consideration, and we are here today.
MR CILLIERS: The reason why I mentioned this, Chairperson, is because of the fact that I understand, at a certain stage someone mentioned this, I do not know if it was Vally or yourself, or one of the members, that tonight you'd sit till 12 o'clock even, and I would just like to tell you what my position is, and this is why I'm mentioning this aspect, it seems that it might not be relevant, but I am present, and my position was, as it was made clear in affidavits during the application which was heard on Monday, this whole week I was not available for these proceedings, but I indicated, this is what was mentioned on Wednesday, that I'd make all possible attempts to make myself available today in order to accommodate you, but it was put to me that an attitude was, and I think this was coming from Mr Vally, I'm not quite sure but it was either from the committee or Mr Vally, that it's completely unacceptable and that Friday is out of the question, and in the light thereof, I made no arrangements, because then it would have been completely unacceptable that these proceedings would continue on Friday, or that it would be postponed till Friday, so yesterday afternoon, during the later hours of the morning, I was informed that the proceedings would happen today because I'll be available today, but I made no arrangements beforehand, because of the attitude towards me, as I was able to make myself available for today, but in the light of the very short notice which I received, I could only make myself available for today and I'm not available to sit tonight or tomorrow morning. At the latest which I can make myself available, and it's 6:30, that's the time I've got to catch my flight.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Cilliers, sir, you know the law, as the law stands now, you would be irrelevant to sit at any time after midnight tonight. You would not be able to sit, even if you wanted to, after midnight tonight.
MR CILLIERS: I am not available to sit after midnight, so it's irrelevant.
CHAIRPERSON: What I'm saying is, even if it was possible for you. That was what we have always been saying then on your client, that the 31st is the last day on which all activities of the Human Rights Violations Committee should be finished in terms of our mandate. I think that was the context in which this whole thing about having to sit until midnight was (indistinct).
MR CILLIERS: No, then I understand. I understood that you were of the intention to sit up till 12 o'clock, but I understand, now that you've described the context, that you cannot sit later than 12 o'clock, but at this early stage I want to make my position very clear to you, I am available, my flight is at 6:30 tonight, and I understand then I can only stay here till five o'clock at the latest, because of the traffic situation, I cannot leave here later than five o'clock and I just want to make it clear to you, and in the light of the fact that this is the last day and time is a problem, I can mention to you that lunch and tea adjournments, as far as they are concerned, if you want to cut it down a bit, then we won't mind, as it suits you, because of the fact that today is the last day, but we, unfortunately, are only available till five o'clock, but it's in the light thereof that I wanted to hear your order, because if I would not have been available at five o'clock, what would be your attitude, would you still like to continue and question Dr Basson without legal representation, because if that's your attitude, then instructions must be taken and we will have to act in the light of the instructions which we would then receive, so it might not be necessary, and that's just why, at this early stage, I am asking you what your attitude is towards the situation?
CHAIRPERSON: I think we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We may never arrive at that stage. If there's all around co-operation, and I hope, for God's sake, that there's all around co-operation today, we might be finished by four o'clock, or even earlier, so that's a bridge that we must cross when we come to it.
MR CILLIERS: I accept it like that. The next aspect which I'd like to mention, it is so that I appear on behalf of Dr Basson. My instruction giving attorney is Mr Vermeulen and Malan, and the Cape Town correspondent who acted yesterday and the day before, he's also here today, but I just want to make it very clear that he was not informed about the merits of this whole situation, he's here just to be polite and for the procedures, but I am the person who prepared, together with Mr Malan, for these proceedings and I am available in that capacity and to appear on behalf of Dr Basson, and the next thing, I did take this up with Mr Vally, it's an aspect with regards to the fact that an application is brought by Mr Basson that in terms of section 33.1(c) of your law, that these proceedings are done behind closed doors. That's the next application that we are bringing. I did tell Mr Vally about this. It's an access that such an application must be held in camera and Mr Vally is of the meaning that it's not necessary, but I want to put it very clearly, as far as we are concerned, it's not a very serious feeling whether it should be in camera or not, but my interpretation of the law is that you are obligated to have it in camera and I suggest that Mr Vally would address you with regards to why this accession must be acted upon differently.
CHAIRPERSON: I don't know whether I want to hear Mr Vally. I think I want to hear the application. My panel members and I, we have been through this exercise, unless we're going to be addressed on issues that are new from those that we were addressed on, unless Mr Vally you have got some other authority and some other disposition to the question, firstly, of whether the application for the matter to be heard in camera should itself be heard in camera. I think that there was an indication that that might be argued in that sort of way the last time we were around. It was abandoned, however, and the argument was abandoned, and the argument was not proffered. I think our first inclination is to say there is no basis for that application to be heard in camera.
MR VALLY: Thank you, Mr Chair. Mr Chair, the position is correct as set out by you. We have had this situation earlier. My learned friend has advised me that he's concerned it should be held in camera by virtue of the fact that there is a "shall" which appears in respect of such applications for matters to be heard in camera. However, we have previously argued and cited authority, and we still have the authority, in terms of the interpretation of the word "shall", whether it's mandatory or merely directory. We submit that, in the context of section 33, it is merely directory. Amongst other reasons, there's no specific sanction which is specified for non-compliance, and I respectfully submit that there is, unless my learned friend wants to motivate why the application itself should be in camera, other than the "shall" appearing in section 33 in the relevant section. I believe that the argument or the application for an in camera hearing, could be held in public and that the law allows it to be held public. Thank you, Mr Chair.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Cilliers?
MR CILLIERS: As I've already said to you, I have no serious problem to have this in public, except that my interpretation of the law seems to be that it's obligatory to have it in camera, but I'm not going to waste any more time about this. If your judgment is that this application would be held in public, then I do not have a serious problem with that.
Chairperson, the application is very shortly the following, and once again I do not want to waste time with long arguments which you've already heard at the previous occasions with regard to his right to silence and the infringement thereof, but it would seem common knowledge or common cause that the proceedings taking place today is actually a very serious infringement on his right to silence, as his constitutional rights dictate and that of Mr Basson's, I was not involved in the application on Monday, but my instructions are that this was also the basis of that argument. Judge Hlophe did not give reasons for his judgment, but it was common cause that he was treated by the advocates who acted on behalf the TRC and also Hlophe, during the questioning, or rather the argumentative process, the basis was that these proceedings are serious infringements on the rights of Mr Basson, and the reason, and this was also argued like this, and I also refer you to the affidavit which was done during those proceedings, that for the allowance of this infringement, because it's of national interest that you as commissioners must prepare yourself to write a final report for the State President in order to perform your mandate, it is necessary for you to obtain these facts, and that's why it was decided that this serious infringement would be allowed in order to put you in that position which would enable you to write a decent report, but I just want to make this point very clear, it was always common cause that this is a definite infringement on his rights. In the argument this would then be the basis of Judge Hlope's judgment, the way I understand it, that because of the fact that there are sufficient security measures within your law, it could be allowed, this infringement, and one of the important aspects which was leaned on is in fact that section 33 of your law the right of silence might be violated, but as long as it's the minimum of people and only the commissioners who would need this information to write a report, would hear this, and if I can refer you to paragraph 21.3 of your own affidavit during this application, where you also put it clearly that the procedures do exist and this allows the applicant to make these applications to you during his testimony that this would be heard in camera and that an order would be given with regards to the distribution of this report to people, or not allowing distribution of this report to other people, this was the basis of the argument in front of Judge Hlophe, and I understand, and according to my instructions, that this was the essence of why he decided to intervene with the fundamental rights of the rights to silence, that of the applicant.
So therefore it's the application that, as you know, he's also going to stand trial with regards to aspects as Mr Potgieter put in his judgments, with regards to aspects which is essentially the same as the ones you're going to question him about, the fact that it's really necessary to hear his evidence is only necessary for the panel and for the people who are involved here, and with the greatest respect, it's not necessary, all those aspects fall away with regards to the general public, the secretary-general and the police. These people should be protected from his disclosure, because this can be disadvantageous to him, if those people knew this information, so there's no basis on which that infringement to the right to silence should lead to the fact that he be disadvantaged or prejudiced.
So the way we took, and which I think was the basis of Mr Hlope's judgment, was in any case was the basis of the arguments on behalf of the TRC, is that we can find a mid-way which is, let's break his right to silence, but protect him against the disadvantageous effect thereof, and that this does take place in camera and that the minutes of the proceedings are not made available to any person outside this committee, with specific reference to the South African Police and the office of the secretary-general who must prosecute Dr Basson, that is my application, that you make an order that these proceedings do happen in camera and that you make a further order that the minutes of these proceedings, and that is the evidence of Mr Basson, must not be made available to any person outside of this committee, with specific reference to the investigating team in the South African Police and the office of the secretary-general, the attorney-general.
CHAIRPERSON: Do I understand that the gravamen of your application is still that your client is running the gauntlet of prejudice if he should testify in public, and that notwithstanding the inherent provisions for protection against prejudice that we indicated in section 31.3, that you still maintain that there's going to be enormous prejudice? It is not being premised, for instance, on dangers of proliferation and issues of that nature, the sole basis is that you are of the view that he still runs the gauntlet of harm and prejudice if he were to testify in public, in view of the fact that he has a criminal case pending against him?
MR CILLIERS: It goes further than that, Chairperson. Firstly, it is indeed my submission, there is the prejudice because of the pending trial, and with all the greatest respect, the protection measures in your law to which you've just referred is not only section 31, that was the crux of the argument on behalf of the TRC, and Judge Hlophe, that's what I understood and that it would also be the basis of his judgment, but it is indeed mentioned in your affidavit in paragraph 21 of the documents, part of the protection and part of the consideration process is the fact that he must testify, it's of national interest, we can protect him at the same time by the section 31, and also we can also protect in that of section 33's protection measures, that we can have these proceedings in camera and we can make an order with regards to the distribution of the minutes.
If I can shortly quote from your affidavit, and this is the basis thereof, you say:-
"It remains open to the applicant to apply for his evidence to be held in camera and any such request will be considered on its merits, taking into account the applicant's constitutional rights. It is also open to the applicant to apply to the respondent to exclude any person from the hearing and to give directions relating to the publication of information in terms of section 33.2 of the Act."
So that was the basis of the argument which led to the fact that this infringement on his right to silence was allowed. The protection which was given to the applicant is that this infringement would not come to the ears of the people who are prosecuting him.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes, I understand that, Advocate Cilliers, but what I wanted to understand is whether we are ad idem in saying that the gravamen of your application is prejudice, potential prejudice to your client's interests?
MR CILLIERS: The second basis is that in the evidence of Mr Basson, I cannot imagine that his evidence would not be full of proliferation issues. His evidence, as you would realise yourself, in the light of the fact that he was in charge of the project and he was the project officer, so there's going to be a lot of proliferation in his evidence and it's going to be impossible for Mr Arendse to jump up and go question by question and say, "This might be proliferation and it might not", and in the middle of an answer he'd say, "Stop, this touches on proliferation, get the public out", so that cannot, it's going to be unbearable. That's the second leg of the problem which we are mentioning to you.
CHAIRPERSON: I see. Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Thank you, Mr Chair. Mr Chair, firstly, regarding the issue of Mr Cilliers' availability, I will also address the panel on it at the appropriate time, I do not accept his submissions in that regard, but coming to the in camera argument, let's understand one thing, the constitutional basis for the argument regarding the right to silence was fully canvassed by the counsel and Mr Van Zyl was present as junior there, and in spite of the argument posed by them and our counter-arguments, Judge Hlophe made a ruling, he was of the opinion, and that was the crux of the matter, he was of the opinion that there was sufficient protection afforded to Dr Basson's constitutional rights by virtue of section 31.3 of our Act, and in addition thereto, section 35.5 of the constitution, which says, and I quote:-
"Evidence obtained in a manner that violates any right in the bill of rights must be excluded if the admission of that evidence would render the trial unfair or otherwise be detrimental to the administration of justice."
By virtue of both protection offered by section 31.3 and all the cases relating thereto, we've talked about Ferreira v Levin, Nel v Le Roux, etcetera, those constitutional cases which are on record, and by virtue of the constitutional provisions of section 35, more specifically section 35.5, that he would be afforded sufficient protection for us to carry out our statutory mandate to obtain evidence from him relating to the chemical and biological warfare programme. That's the first issue.
The second issue regarding section 33 and how we raised it in court, we must remember that the initial application was brought by Dr Wouter Basson in order to stop us from taking his evidence here. One of the issues raised by him was that we tendered to hold it in camera, but then didn't develop the situation any further. Our response was simply that it was at all stages open to Dr Wouter Basson's legal representatives, and in fact this is precisely the right that Advocate Cilliers is exercising on behalf of Dr Basson at this stage, to make an application in terms of section 33 for the matter to be heard in camera.
Having made the application, we want to counter this application. The right does not extend further than that, and that was our submission in our court papers, that if he felt he was willing to give evidence in camera, then he could have made an application there and then. The fact is he did not do so, and having argued that, we're not at a situation where the Court ruled that he had to give evidence before us and now we have an application before us.
In our application, we also attached a letter addressed to Mr Malan, the attorney for Dr Wouter Basson on the 15th of May 1998, and I'll just quote paragraph 3 of that letter, I'm sorry, I'm trying to find it, sorry, paragraph 4, it says:-
"You then stated that your clients had a preference for an open hearing. I informed you that the hearing would be open and then said it was a section 29 notice to call your clients to a section 30 hearing."
I'm not sure, this date was erroneous. Anyway, the point that I'm making here is, whilst Mr Chaskalson was correct in what he had said earlier, he had recorded the fact that the preference indicated by Dr Wouter Basson's legal representatives was for an open hearing. Now this was never denied by them in subsequent correspondence.
Again, in terms of our previous hearing, where we had other witnesses, there was never an application for an in camera hearing.
We are told that, specifically relating to Dr Wouter Basson, his constitutional rights need to be protected vis-a-vis the attorney-general and the police. Now, two issues. Firstly, his constitutional rights are being protected, as was ruled by Justice Hlophe, by virtue of section 31.3 of our Act, and section 35.5 of the constitution.
Secondly, we have no problems supporting any order to the effect that no record of these proceedings should be given to any member of the South African Police Services or to the office of the attorney-general.
Thirdly, it would be, I would respectfully submit, very irresponsible of any member of the investigating team or the office of the attorney-general, to try and even obtain a record from us, because it will taint their whole case, they will not be able to use this evidence in terms of section 31.3. So I can't see them even attempting to obtain a record from us, but we'd not object to such an order being granted.
Finally, we've had personal counsel of the deputy president and the president before us arguing that this matter should be held in camera. Their personal concerns were inter-state relationships, as well as proliferation. Proliferation has now been raised again here after a question by the chairperson. However, the fundamentals of our response to that application remain intact. This matter is of immense public concern, this matter goes to the heart of what was being done in the period which covers the mandate period of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in terms of which there were gross violations of human rights as defined in our Act. We need to remind ourselves once again what the purpose of our inquiries by the committee on human rights violations are. We have to, in terms of section 4(a):-
"(i) Facilitate and where necessary initiate or co-ordinate inquiries into gross violations of human rights, including violations which were part of a systematic pattern of abuse.
(ii) The nature, causes and extent of gross violations of human rights, including the antecedence, circumstances, factors, context, motives and perspectives which led to such violations.
(iii) The identify of all persons, authorities, institutions and organisations involved in such violations.
(iv) The question whether such violations were the result of deliberate planning on the part of the State or a former State or any of the organs of any political organisation, liberation movement or other group or individual."
Now, that can be argued that we can achieve these objectives even if we held this particular inquiry in camera. We've already stressed the importance of this inquiry and why it's important that this be held in public. This is emphasised in our Act. In terms of section 33:-
"Subject to the provisions of this section, the hearings of the commission shall be open to the public."
Two circumstances where this application could succeed.
1. It will be in the interests of justice; and
2. There's a likelihood that harm may ensue to any person as a result of the proceedings being open.
I submit that the argument has been in terms of the former, it would be in the interests of justice. I believe that Justice Hlophe addressed this very issue by stating that the protection offered by the constitution, section 35.5 and section 31.3 of our Act will ensure that there is no impact or it would not necessarily interfere with the interests of justice for this hearing to be held in public. That's the first point.
The second point is, when this whole argument about the right to silence was raised by Advocate Cilliers previously before this commission, it was he himself who stated that even if it was to be held in camera, by virtue of the fact that we have to make a report to the president in terms of the legislation by the end of October 1998, would have no impact on his client's alleged right to silence. This is the point he made and that is the reality. The reality is, we have to submit our report, we have to make the findings as I have elucidated earlier, in terms of section 4(a), so to have this in camera really will not in any way assuage him regarding his concerns, because his concerns have been held by the Cape High Court to have no legal basis, because he is afforded sufficient legal protection.
So in the interests of transparency and openness, and in the interests of disclosing the work to the public out there, who have a right to know of the abuses which were carried out by State functionaries in their name, we respectfully submit this hearing should be held in public. I would hope that this application is just not another technical manoeuvre to frustrate both the workings of the commission and also to interfere with and undermine the judgment of Justice Hlophe. I would remind Dr Wouter Basson that the time has come when we have a constitutional democracy, that this is not a dictatorship by a few people who have been put into positions of power by virtue of the colour of their skins, that in terms of the constitutional democracy he was afforded the opportunity of going to court, where he was afforded the opportunity of arguing his case. Having done so, the Court ruled in a certain way. He has led us on a merry dance for the last two days, Wednesday and Thursday. We had Advocate Cilliers asking us strange questions, and this is why I need to go back to what he said earlier, because Mr Van Niekerk was here representing Dr Wouter Basson, Dr Wouter Basson was here personally, and for Advocate Cilliers to say, "I am not sure what the order was", etcetera, it's very strange. Again... (intervention).
MR CILLIERS: What's the relevance of the utterances or the speech Mr Vally is making now, is it for the benefit of the committee or for the media?
MR VALLY: I will elucidate and hopefully assist my learned friend as to - stating exactly why I'm making the submission.
MR CILLIERS: He does not have to be of assistance to me, he must be of assistance to you to make a judgment.
MR VALLY: With respect, the committee did not ask me the question, my learned friend did. I am simply stating that I would hope that this is not a frivolous application, and that's the point I'm making. For Mr Cilliers to state that he did not know what happened when there was a correspondent attorney here is an indication to me that the frivolity and the manoeuvring is continuing and continues even now, and I will submit that, and I said with respect, we trust that this is not another frivolous application to try and sabotage our work. Thank you, Mr Chair.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Cilliers, anything in reply? Are you still taking instructions from Mr Van Niekerk?
MR CILLIERS: I want to place this position on record, because of the situation only after ten o'clock last night I arrived in Cape Town. I did not have the opportunity to consult with Mr Van Niekerk last night. We were here at eight o'clock this morning because we did not want to be late. I had no opportunity to receive instructions from Mr Van Niekerk, but in the light of Mr Moosa's attitude, perhaps it is a proper time to adjourn so that Mr Van Niekerk can inform me what the position is. We are trying to save time, not to hold consultations which are not necessary. If Mr Vally is accusing me that I do not receive proper instructions because I want to save some time, we have to look at it this way, I'm not going to hold political speeches, which my friend perhaps feels is relevant.
He is telling you that Justice Hlophe found that and made that judgment, I want to know where that judgment is on which he is basing what he is saying. According to me, Justice Hlophe gave no judgment, he only gave an order within a few seconds. As my learned colleague is saying, with respect, that Justice Hlophe made this and this and this judgment, and there's protection in this or this, there are two positions: either my colleague saw the judgment, which nobody else had seen; or my learned colleague is misleading you, because there is no such judgment. The basis of this argument before Justice Hlophe is, according to the documents and by means of an affidavit by your yourself, Mr Chairman, it was said that under these circumstances the right to silence of Dr Basson can be infringed because there are necessary measures to protect him, that is section 31 or section 33. On that basis, I'm asking you, and the choice is easy, with respect, my learned friend is saying that we want to frustrate the position, with respect, what does the committee want, does it want to hear from Dr Basson what had happened, or do they want a public circus? We will answer the questions you are posing.
CHAIRPERSON: Don't you think that's an unfortunate choice of words, to say because it's going to be in public, it's going to be a public circus?
MR CILLIERS: It might be so.
CHAIRPERSON: I think it is, with respect.
MR CILLIERS: I will accept it like that. What I'm telling you is, if this is the purpose of this committee, to listen to Dr Basson's evidence to understand better what happened in this specific project in order to prepared the necessary report as is mentioned in these documents and which I accept, it is definitely not necessary that it should happen in public, it could, it can happen in camera. With the greatest of respect, section 33, the introduction is very clear. If I can read it to you:-
"Subject to the provisions of this section, the hearings of the commission shall be open to the public. If the commission, in any proceedings before it, is satisfied that..."
the second sub-paragraph:-
"...there is a likelihood that harm may ensue to any person as a result of the proceedings being open."
Now I'm putting it to you unequivocally that it is very clear, if Dr Basson's evidence, which will prejudice his right to silence, and that should be heard by the prosecution, there is the likelihood that he will be prejudiced by that. With the greatest of respect, this is sufficient for that judgment. I find it that the opposing of this matter before Justice Hlophe is that these proceedings can be held in camera when you get to the evidence he is opposing this, it can be in camera and the infringement on the right to silence can be limited to the people only who need it to execute their duties in terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
MR VALLY: Chairperson, can I also address you on this issue?
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you, Mr Vally.
MR ARENDSE: One of the grounds on which the application is being made is that there's likely to be or there will be some proliferation on the part of Dr Basson. Now that concerns my client directly. We are satisfied that that concern has been more than adequately addressed in the proceedings up to now. Fortunately, we've had the benefit since the initial application by the government that these hearings be held in camera, we've had the benefit of this process, we've had agreements that's been adhered to and there's been co-operation from all sides, except from Dr Basson and his lawyers. So there has been and we're satisfied that that particular concern will be protected.
Now, the offer of the hearings being held in camera was made and was tabled here on the 8th or the 9th of June when the application was made for Dr Basson not to testify. At that stage, Dr Basson and his lawyers had an opportunity to make this application that they're now making. It is clear that this is another attempt at trying to delay these proceedings.
The government is opposed to the application. Given the limited time constraints that we have, there is absolutely no need that we can see why he should proliferate or why he should endanger or potentially endanger our foreign relations with other countries.
I can just think of a couple of examples. Allegations have been made that toxins were made, poisons were made, at this Roodeplaats, this factory of death, by people who actually made them on his instructions. We know that toxins and poisons were put into cigarettes and into whisky and all kinds of things, people were killed, cholera was used to put into the water of certain - these are allegations that he needs to answer, they have got nothing to do with proliferation, they have got nothing to do with our foreign relations, and given the time constraints that we have today, those are the, I would have thought, the kind of direct questions that Mr Vally should be putting to Dr Basson today. So for that reason alone, and because it concerns my client directly, the leg of proliferation should fall away immediately, because the government is now saying that these hearings should go ahead and focus on the gross human rights violations.
As far as the interests of justice or the likelihood of harm, that is addressed by 31.3 and this committee has already made a ruling in that regard.
MR CILLIERS: With respect, I would like to answer his argument. He says "people were killed". I can't remember that one witness made such an allegation, not one allegation was made where one person was killed by Dr Basson or through this project. I take strong exception by this misleading and manipulation of the facts.
R U L I N G
This is an application by Dr Wouter Basson for his evidence to be received by us in camera.
It is premised essentially on two legs, and I will paraphrase that receiving his evidence in public may well prejudice his constitutional rights, and that this has been common cause, even though there is a ruling against Dr Basson in the form of a Cape High Court, which has enjoined him, by way of an order to appear before us and testify on issues and reply to questions that will be lawfully put to him.
The second leg is that there is a possibility, indeed a probability that evidence emanating from him might well lead to proliferation.
The panel is quite sympathetic to the argument advanced on behalf of Dr Wouter Basson. We also are of the view that this is ground that has been traversed before us before us when a similar application was made at the beginning of these proceedings.
There is a sense in which we feel that the application may well be premature made, as it is at a time when we have hardly heard any evidence emanating from Dr Basson.
We are therefore of the view that at this stage there isn't really anything that persuades us that any evidence that might be sought or solicited from him is of a nature that it should be excluded from the public domain, because we have not heard it. We would therefore rather adopt an approach that says, because in any event what has been relied upon as having been said by me in my affidavit in support of our counter-application, namely that one of the safeguards against self-incrimination and against an inroad to his right to remain silent is that he may well have to testify in camera, was premised on the understanding that that application would be treated on its own merits. I don't think there was anything absolute about the suggestion made that one of the safeguards shall be that he should testify in camera.
We are satisfied that there are in-built mechanisms in this process which would allow, at any stage in the proceedings, for a sympathetic consideration to be given to an aspect of the evidence being taken in camera on proper causa.
We therefore rule that the proceedings should go ahead in public, that questions be put to Dr Wouter Basson, that these be lawful questions, and that if at any stage it becomes apparent on good cause shown that a stage in the testimony has been reached where that aspect of the evidence should be heard in camera, an application of that nature, or an application seeking to persuade us to receive that sort of evidence, may be proffered and the panel may have to exercise their minds on the basis of an application so made. In short, therefore, the application for the testimony to be received in private at this stage is REFUSED, but room is being left, on proper cause shown, for an application to be made at a stage where it might be argued that aspect of the evidence needs to be heard in camera.
MR CILLIERS: Mr Chairman, at this stage I ask for a short adjournment to receive instructions based on your judgment.
CHAIRPERSON: How much time do you think you shall need?
MR CILLIERS: I need about five minutes, let's make it five minutes, not to inconvenience you.
CHAIRPERSON: We shall adjourn until ten o'clock.
CHAIRPERSON: Advocate Cilliers?
MR CILLIERS: As it pleases you, Mr Chairman, I've received instructions and I've discussed this matter with Mr Vally. The position is that my instructions are that Dr Basson is available or prepared to handle the matter as you've indicated. In the light of that, I've requested Mr Vally, and we'll handle it in such a way, that in his initial questioning he will avoid aspects mentioned in the charge sheet which you have, that we can proceed with the questioning before I repeat the application and request you to make a decision in this regard. My instructions are, we accept your arrangement, your ruling, we will handle it on that basis, but as soon as contentious matters are mentioned, I will ask or apply again.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally, do you confirm that to be an arrangement between the two of you?
MR VALLY: Yes, Mr Chair, the arrangement is, and let me try and phrase it, there will be issues which will be contentious, which we will need answers on, which may relate to the charge sheet. What I want to do is get through as many issues as possible which will not be contentious, before we come to that stage, but there are, with respect to my learned friend, going to be situations where we will be covering those aspects because they are particularly important.
CHAIRPERSON: I think that's a fairly sensible arrangement, and I must thank both counsel for an approach that seeks to be promoting a win-win situation. We have to get on, but we have to be fairly sensitive to rights of individuals, and Dr Wouter Basson is entitled to no less.
I just want to recognise the presence of Mr Du Plessis, and you are already on record. Do I understand that you represent the interests of Dr Knobel?
MR DU PLESSIS: That is correct.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Van Zyl, are you appearing with Advocate Cilliers?
MR VAN ZYL: Mr Chairman, as Advocate Cilliers has indicated, I did not consult Dr Basson in this regard, I've consulted Mr Swanepoel and Dr Myburgh, and I'm looking after their interests.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Malan, are you appearing with Advocate Cilliers?
MR MALAN: He is my instructing attorney, Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: Very well. Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Well, we now call Dr Wouter Basson to the stand.
CHAIRPERSON: There was a question about how old he was, I don't know whether you're going to pursue that question.
MR VALLY: I will... (intervention).
DR BASSON: That is my secret.
MR VALLY: I repeat my question, Dr Basson, how old are you?
DR BASSON: I am 48 years old.
MR VALLY: What are your academic qualifications?
DR BASSON: I have the MbChb. I obtained that in 1973. I have a Master's Degree in Physiology and Biochemistry in 1978. I obtained M.Med. in 1980.
MR VALLY: And when did you join the South African Defence Force?
DR BASSON: In January 1975 I joined the Defence Force.
MR VALLY: So I assume at the time that you were studying medicine, you did a year internship after qualifying?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: Did you do your internship in the Defence Force?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: So, if you joined the Defence Force in 1975, immediately after completing your medical studies and your internship for a year, you went straight into the army?
DR BASSON: That is correct, I did not join the army, I went into the Medical Corps.
MR VALLY: Well let's find out about that. When you say you went into the Medical Corps, was this Medical Corps a unit in the South African Defence Force?
DR BASSON: At that stage the South African Medical Service were sub-divisions of the army and the air force and the navy. At a later stage during my career, the South African Medical Corps became an independent part of the army.
MR VALLY: I understand that, my question is very simple, were you a member of the army?
DR BASSON: I was never a member of the South African Defence Force.
MR VALLY: You never had a rank with the Defence Force?
DR BASSON: Repeat the question?
MR CILLIERS: With the greatest of respect, my learned friend is in a dilemma, he does not understand the previous answer. There's a big difference between the South African army and the South African Defence Force. With respect, with the little time you have, you wasted it, with the greatest of respect, with irrelevant facts. My learned friend should understand that the Defence Force is the encompassing body... (intervention).
MR VALLY: Mr Chair, this is a wasting of time, I know exactly what I am asking. If Mr Cilliers was going to interrupt for every minute, he must indicate that he's going to waste our time. I think that when we get down to the... (intervention).
CHAIRPERSON: Gentlemen, gentlemen, hokaai, please, please, I take your point, Mr Cilliers. Can you put your questions again, Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Did you join the South African Defence Force in 1975?
DR BASSON: That is correct, yes.
MR VALLY: What rank did you have when you joined?
DR BASSON: I joined with the rank of lieutenant.
MR VALLY: Tell us, from 1975, after lieutenant, your various promotions?
DR BASSON: I can't remember the exact dates, I can give you more or less certain periods. As far as I can remember, in 1977 I became a captain. If I can remember correctly, in 1980 I was promoted to a major. Shortly after that, I can't remember precisely, I was promoted to a commander. In 1985, I was a temporary colonel, and in 1986 the rank of colonel was confirmed as a substantive rank and at the beginning of '88, I was promoted to a substantive brigadier. Regarding the structure of these ranks, because there's a distinction in the Medical Corps between these various ranks... (intervention).
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, that's fine, that's fine. So between '75, from 1975 when you joined the army as a lieutenant, in 1988 you were made brigadier?
DR BASSON: I did not join the South African Defence Force... (intervention).
MR VALLY: The South African Defence Force, I beg your pardon.
DR BASSON: ...it is very important for me.
MR VALLY: That's fine, that's fine. When you were a member of the South African Defence Force.. (intervention).
DR BASSON: Can you please repeat the question.
MR VALLY: ...from January '75 you're lieutenant, in 1988 you were promoted to brigadier?
DR BASSON: That is correct, yes.
MR VALLY: So in a space of 13 years you had a meteoric rise within the South African Defence Force?
DR BASSON: I can't comment about the meteoric rise, it had to do with qualifications achieved, it had to do with professional status, it had to do with exposure to experience, there were various factors taking into consideration during this process. It could have been that there was nobody else available, it could have been that I was promoted because there was no competition.
MR VALLY: In the situation of a person who was a member of the Defence Force, no matter what their qualifications or the availability of posts, etcetera, to rise from lieutenant in '75 to brigadier in '88 was unusual?
DR BASSON: I am not a qualified staff member of the Defence Force, I have no knowledge whether it was extraordinary or whether it was abnormal, I can't comment on that.
MR VALLY: Well I put to you that it was.
MR CILLIERS: Do you know of anybody else who had that distinction?
DR BASSON: There are few such instances I can remember in my own environment.
MR VALLY: When were you Mr P W Botha's doctor?
DR BASSON: I was never Mr P W Botha's doctor. Sometimes, where there were certain movements or certain meetings with the State President, as part of my ordinary medical duties in the Defence Force, I saw to it that he had the certain medical support. Sometimes there were not other doctors and I had to accompany Mr Botha and the people who were with him to wherever the meetings, or whoever took place.
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, when did you first accompany Dr Botha in your capacity as a medical doctor?
DR BASSON: I can't remember the exact date, but it was during one of his visits to the Border, late in the 1970's.
MR VALLY: So from the 1970's already, in your capacity as a member of the Defence Force and as a medical doctor, you have accompanied him in that capacity to the defence areas, late '70's?
DR BASSON: Me and about 20 other doctors.
MR VALLY: And I'm talking about your personal responsibility as a medical doctor looking after his health?
DR BASSON: It was never my personal responsibility to look after his health, I repeat, once again....(intervention)
MR VALLY: Sir, let me - I heard your answer the first time.
MR CILLIERS: With respect, if the question is asked, the witness must have a chance to answer the question.
MR VALLY: I want to put it clear from the beginning that Dr Basson is behaving in a manner which is extremely frustrating, he is doing it purposely and he's dragging out questions. By virtue of the fact that they dragged this matter out from Wednesday to today, I will have to, from time to time cut his irrelevant comments out and cut him short. The situation is not of my making, the situation is of Dr Basson's making, and I really would suggest that the attitude that he has in terms of trying to unnecessarily draw out answers, when he tells me, "I'll repeat my answer", and I say, "That is fine, I've heard it the first time", he must hear me. Thank you, Mr Chair.
MR CILLIERS: With all respect, there is no basis for those allegations of Mr Vally that Dr Basson is deliberately trying to prolong things. Surely you yourself would intervene if you received that impression, and with the greatest respect that statement of Mr Vally's is unfounded and I ask him to draw it back.
CHAIRPERSON: Carry on, Mr Vally.
MR VALLY: How did it come about that you, as a cardiologist, and I believe you are a cardiologist, took over responsibility for the health care of Mr P W Botha once he got a stroke?
DR BASSON: I never took the responsibility over for Mr Botha's health after he had a stroke, I was in Cape Town at that time busy with other issues when he had his stroke, and because I'm a qualified doctor and I had several years of experience, I was asked to speak to Mr Botha and to consult with him. I saw him at the hospital. It was my opinion that he had a very severe stroke and at that stage he was not fit to continue with his duties as State President of this country if there was not a real change brought about, and afterwards I was told by phone by the local commandant about a half an hour later after I've given this information to his private secretary and they told me that they no longer needed my services and from that moment onwards I had no longer contact with Mr Botha with regards to his health or any other issues.
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, can you tell us how your involvement in the chemical and biological and warfare programme came about?
DR BASSON: After I was qualified as a physician in 1980, I returned to the academic side of the hospital where I worked and only months afterwards, the times I cannot remember them very well, but I was approached by the then Mr Nieuwoudt and he asked me if I'll be of assistance in a programme according to which the South African Defence Force would be supplied with a defensive capability with regards to chemical and biological warfare. General Nieuwoudt at that stage, together with the then head of staff information of the Defence Force and of the Operational Services, gave me information where the threat, as they saw it at that time, against South Africa was set out. I was then requested to act as project leader to bring this programme into life, and after consideration and thinking about how it would affect my medical career, I decided that in the interests of South African Security Forces, and also in the interests of the South African public in general, it was important for South Africa to have such a defensive capability.
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, that's fine. So, you were approached by the then surgeon-general and you thought your patriotic duty to the then apartheid government was such that you had to protect the people of South Africa. I need to ask you... (intervention).
DR BASSON: Can I comment on that?
MR VALLY: No, no, no, no, I haven't asked my question yet please. Thank you. You're a medical doctor, you're a physician, what was your expertise in chemical and biological warfare, why were you chosen?
DR BASSON: My patriotic duty at that stage was not directed towards the apartheid government in this country, my duty was to the people in this country. I had no specific qualifications at that stage to become involved or to know something of chemical, biological warfare. There was no person in the South African Defence Force available who knew something of this, so I had to assume that they chose me because of the fact that I was the most appropriate person in that environment.
MR VALLY: Fine. So did you... (intervention).
MR POTGIETER: Sorry, Dr Basson appropriate in what way? I mean we've understood that you had a Masters in physiology and chemistry, and that you had an MD in medicine, so what was the appropriateness in terms of a chemical and biological warfare potential? Did they just see you as a potential candidate, or did you have some specific knowledge already at that particular moment?
DR BASSON: I had no knowledge at that particular moment. I think my potential lied in the fact that I was a trained medical scientist, and at that stage I was also a trained soldier. So the only real potential, if you look at the new labour law, the only potential I had for that task was, I had no qualifications which made me capable of doing it, but the potential lied in the fact I had the background to understand the military science, as well as the medical science, and I could combine them, and to combine them tactically.
CHAIRPERSON: You wouldn't have called it an affirmative action appointment insofar as you were Afrikaner and also qualified?
DR BASSON: I think that's affirmative, because I was available, yes.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Early on, after you took on this undertaking without any formal qualifications for it, because of your patriotic duty, you were sent to Taiwan and the United States to look at their programmes?
DR BASSON: Amongst others, yes.
MR VALLY: Where else did you go?
DR BASSON: At this stage, it's difficult for me to answer questions with regards to my visits abroad. If you insist that I give you full disclosure about this, I would have to apply that this happens in camera, so I'll rather talk about the visits to China and America.
MR VALLY: I don't see, clearly you're more of a lawyer than you think you were yesterday and the day before, but let's talk about America and China, I'm talking about TRC1 and TRC2, your attorney should have it. TRC1, are those notes in your handwriting?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: That's a report on the 9th of May 1981?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: And you went to a congress in San Antonio with various mostly personnel from America, Germany, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, is that correct?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: Now what is amazing about this document in your own handwriting, and if you want me to go through it, I will, but you seem to have got some senior American officials to open up to you to an amazing extent, whereby they told you what their chemical warfare potential was, what kind of facilities they had, an incredible amount of detail. How did you achieve this in such a short period?
DR BASSON: I asked them.
MR VALLY: And they just spilled the beans?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: As a military person, or as a South African Defence Force person, wasn't security very lax on their part?
DR BASSON: I cannot comment on the Americans and their level of security. What I can tell you is that in all the information-gathering attempts, I always took a direct approach, I did not waste time, if I wanted to ask someone something and they answered me, I continued with that. It was my experience at that stage, it's like if you want an answer, ask the person directly, and in this way I received very direct answers from a lot of people. What their motives were, I do not know.
MR VALLY: So you would just go and say, "What is your potential for defending yourselves against chemical and biological warfare?" and they would tell you everything?
DR BASSON: Chairperson, we're talking about 1981. I just, I told this person just now it was my general approach, I went to the people and I said, "What's the situation?", in general discussions, at parties, wherever.
CHAIRPERSON: Well I think, Dr Basson, possibly, I don't know where he's getting to and I would be keen to see where he's getting to, but he might possibly be wanting to know what was it that you had that persuaded people to be so very keen to divulge what amounts to State secrets to you, did you bribe them, did you have an ability which ordinary people do not have, in order for them to be so very easy?
DR BASSON: I accept you'd not accept a pretty face as an answer. I had no specific abilities in 1981, I had no capability of bribing anybody... (intervention).
CHAIRPERSON: That's not the question I'm asking, I'm just saying, you know, that possibly is why he's trying to get you to say, why was it easy for you?
DR BASSON: I'm just stopping all the fears here. I never bribed anyone. What I have experienced at that stage, and this is all over the world, in Europe and also in America and in the UK, was a very great concern about the capabilities of the East Bloc countries on the level of chemical biological warfare.
MR VALLY: Fine, let's stop there, let's just stop there please, Brigadier Basson... (intervention).
DR BASSON: Chairperson, I want to give you the answer please.
MR VALLY: No, there was no question, Mr Chair. I don't know what his... (intervention).
DR BASSON: You asked how I did it, you asked how I did it, I'm telling you how I did it.
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, I am asking the questions.
MR CILLIERS: With respect, the witness is answering the questions. You've asked him a follow-up question and it's obviously very relevant to all of this.
CHAIRPERSON: Okay, Mr Vally, can he finish up that aspect?
DR BASSON: At that stage, I detected a great concern all over the world with regards to the chemical and biological warfare capabilities of the East Bloc countries. At that stage in South Africa, we were confronted with evident information that the Russians and the Cubans and the East Germans in the neighbouring states, they had definite chemical warfare capabilities in the neighbouring countries and the western possibilities at that stage was really interested in this capability of theirs, and it is so that they often asked me to convey information to them with regards to the information we gathered in the neighbouring states, neighbouring countries, and it is so that this information was exchanged with me I think on the basis of the fact that they also wanted the information, and that's why I had good access to senior government officials and people at that time.
MR VALLY: By virtue of your long answers, let me give you a composite question, TRC2 deals with the visit to Taiwan and by virtue of your answer, co-operation between the South African Defence Force and what you call the western countries was very good in the area of chemical and biological warfare, is that what you're saying?
DR BASSON: That is correct, yes.
MR VALLY: Now, we want to hear about project coast. When were you appointed project officer for project coast?
DR BASSON: If I remember correctly, it was around about '81, I can't give you the exact date, but project coast was formalised round about 1981, but project coast actually came into life after the senior command structure of the Defence Force gave me about a year's chance or time to experience something with regards to chemical and biological warfare and to investigate it and to come forward to search and suggestions. These suggestions were information I conveyed to the command, the instructions of the Defence Force, and then project coast was brought into life.
MR VALLY: Until the project coast, 1981, you were the project officer, what were the reporting structures?
DR BASSON: I'm not sure, I'm not certain that coast already existed in 1981, I've got a suspicion it only got structured in '82, but to answer your question, it was so that project coast fell under the charge of the chairpersonship of the head of the Defence Force at that time, and they had a committee which was called the controlling committee, and this committee existed out of several army officials.
MR VALLY: Sorry, when you say controlling committee, do you mean co-ordinating committee? I'm sorry, the (indistinct) came through incorrectly. Carry on please?
DR BASSON: The co-ordinating controlling committee. The co-ordinating controlling committee had sub-committees, as it is in the case with projects in the Defence Force, it was about giving work to different people and there are several committees which was put there, there was a work group, security work group, who made sure about the security of the group, there was the financial sub-group, who looked after the financial aspects of the project, there was a technical work group, who was responsible for the technical and scientific aspects of the project, and I believe there was also a communication operation, or propaganda, as you would call it today, and probably a committee like that, but I was not involved with that, so I cannot really remember that, but what I do remember is the certainty and the working group and the technical group.
MR VALLY: What was your role as project officer?
DR BASSON: My role as project officer was to give the strategic guidelines which came from the co-ordinating controlling committee, and those guidelines then I had to process them and to come up with a practical way or plan to achieve the goals of the co-ordinating control committee.
MR VALLY: How often did this co-ordinating committee meet?
DR BASSON: I cannot remember. The committee met, in the initial stages of the project, on a regular basis, and surely thereafter I think it must have happened on a two to three monthly basis, maybe a bit longer, further apart, but then also sometimes they might have been closer together, it depended how urgent the matters were.
MR VALLY: So can we say that in view of the fact that the co-ordinating committee did not meet very often, that you were largely given a free hand?
DR BASSON: That is not correct, I did not have a free hand, and I repeat what I've said before, it was my task to receive the guidelines from the committee, to process them and to go back to the co-ordinating control committee with specific goals, and some of these goals had sub-goals, and the control committee had to approve these goals, and according to that a budget was brought into life and I received further guidelines from them and I also received authorisation from them to act in this regard.
MR VALLY: Let's understand these strategic guidelines that you are being given. Would they, for example, tell you, and this is not getting into your case, but I need to ask you a direct question, would they tell you, "Make poisons"?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Would they tell you, "Set up front companies"?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Would they tell you what quantities of substances to produce?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Whose decision was it to set up front companies?
DR BASSON: Front companies were brought into life after consideration was given with regards to the goals we wanted to achieve and after we did proper planning and we realised that the only way to achieve certain goals would be by the placing there of front companies, then afterwards the financial group would control the establishment of this company.
MR VALLY: The question is, whose decision was it initially to set up front companies?
DR BASSON: There wasn't a single decision taken to establish a front company. I repeat my answer... (intervention).
MR VALLY: No, no, Dr Basson, please, I heard your answer, there's no need to repeat it. You gave me a long story about planning, etcetera, where did the idea originate to set up front companies? The question is very simple.
DR BASSON: The thought of using front companies came after we considered the approach of the rest of the world with regards to... (intervention).
MR VALLY: Where did the decision originate, which person, which committee, who made the original decision that we should investigate this?
DR BASSON: All of these kind of requests or considerations were taken by the co-ordinating committee.
MR VALLY: Who would have put it on the agenda of the co-ordinating committee, was it you?
DR BASSON: Nobody would place it on the agenda of the controlling co-ordinating committee, it would have been submitted as an option and the committee would have decided.
MR VALLY: Did you put the proposal forward for discussion?
DR BASSON: Personally, no, I did not make the suggestions. In the light of the information and the certainty work group was attributed to this and they would have confirmed the necessity of such company.
MR VALLY: So whose idea was it initially, very simple?
DR BASSON: The whole world's idea, everybody in the world
works like that.
MR VALLY: Dr Basson, you don't bring the whole world to your co-ordinating committee meetings, do you?
DR BASSON: I bring the whole world's information to the controlling committee.
MR VALLY: So you brought the information to the co-ordinating committee meeting?
DR BASSON: Me and the members of the certainty work group were the elements of the information community, I was not a trained information officer, but it was used in the information community to make use of front companies and they gave us the necessary advice with regards to this.
MS SOOKA: Perhaps the question is fairly simple, why don't you give us the names of the people who actually participated in the making of this decision?
DR BASSON: For the only reason, I cannot remember, we're talking about the CCC in '81/'82, and the finance work group of '82, I can give you the costs, but I can't give you the names.
MS SOOKA: I don't want the costs right now, what I'm asking you... (intervention).
DR BASSON: Positions, posts.
CHAIRPERSON: You are not on record, Ms Sooka.
MS SOOKA: Sorry, Chair. It would help if you would give us the posts, but in addition it would help if you told us who was directly involved in the decision. I don't believe that you don't remember, so I would like to hear from you please?
DR BASSON: I'm sorry that you do not believe me that I cannot remember it, this was 18 years ago, and it is the truth that I cannot remember. The posts which were available, which were responsible in the controlling co-ordinating committee was the head of the South African Defence Force, the head of the Staff Information, head of Staff Finances, the surgeon-general, the commanding officer of the Special Forces, and also it could have been the head of Staff Operations of the South African Defence Force, I think so, I cannot remember exactly, and then from the Security Group, the director of anti-information and the army would have made use of such a project as well, there was also a member of the head of Staff Information, which would have been present, but I cannot remember the names of the individuals, except that the surgeon-general was then Nieuwoudt.
MS SOOKA: Thank you.
MR VALLY: Which companies were - I'm sorry.
CHAIRPERSON: Dr Randera?
DR RANDERA: Dr Basson, I wonder whether you're just making it a little more difficult than it really should be, the question to this answer. I mean you're starting a new project, 1982, it's a project, I mean you, it hasn't been done before, you're put in charge of developing this idea, as you said earlier on yourself, and the question is, who takes the different options to the co-ordinating committee? Now you must have put options forward in terms of the studies that you had done. As we understood it from General Knobel earlier on, there were very few people involved. Although he'd been invited to the initial meetings, he wasn't part of the group in 1982, but very few people were involved in terms of developing this project, and as I would understand the project, you put forward options in terms of front companies and whether Armscor should deal with it or the army's scientific laboratory should deal with it itself, and that's the question that's being asked, were you the person who put forward the options in terms of front companies?
DR BASSON: I'm going to repeat what I've said, I was one of those people who tried to shed light on this problem. The chief director counter intelligence, they knew about front companies, I did not know anything about front companies. The concept, like they operated overseas, I ...(tape ends)
DR BASSON: ...[inaudible] in the country. There was a committee decision, it was It was a committee decision and it was: "Management by Committee".
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: As Project Officer, were you directly given the responsibility of setting these companies up?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Who was?
DR BASSON: At a very early stage of this project the Management and Financial Work Group identified staff from outside, mainly from Armscor but also from private institutions to undertake the management, financial and administrative tasks.
MR VALLY: And the scientists?
DR BASSON: The scientists did not play any role at all in establishing the companies.
MR VALLY: Did you choose the scientists for the front companies?
DR BASSON: Under the instructions from the CCC I identified certain scientist whom we thought could make a contribution. After these scientists were approved by the CCC. The further recruitment was a shared responsibility by myself and the scientists who had already been appointed. For example, in the case of Doctor Goosen ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: Well that's fine because I've heard you there but I will come back to this and I'll give you another opportunity.
Which front companies were set up?
DR BASSON: If my memory serves me correctly the first front company that was established was Delta G Scientific.
MR VALLY: I asked you about all the front companies set up under the auspices of Project Coast. Can you tell us which front companies were set up under the auspices of Project Coast?
DR BASSON: I can't remember all the front companies. There certainly must have been a whole lot.
MR VALLY: Well tell us those that you do remember.
DR BASSON: Those that I can remember is Delta G Scientific and then there was a management and financial company called Infladel. It was Roodeplaat Research Laboratories and its affiliates. Infladel was later followed, if I remember correctly, by a company called Safmed (Pty) Ltd. Safmed, if I remember correctly, was followed by a company called, a Closed Corporation by the name of D John Truter cc.
MR VALLY: And there may be many more which you don't remember?
DR BASSON: No, I doubt it whether there were lots more but I could have missed one or two.
MR VALLY: I see. Now, let's just talk briefly about RRL, what was the responsibility of this front company?
DR BASSON: Roodeplaat Research Laboratories was instructed to develop a research laboratory to establish expertise whereby a defensive biological warfare capability could be developed in the Republic. It was the instruction to Roodeplaat to employ certain scientists to generate enough private funds so that the company could stand on its own feet.
After the scientific work for the Defence Force was completed they were allowed to do a certain amount of private research. Professor Folb will know that no scientist can do research or can do research continually without making known the facts. So every researcher had his own field of research where they could research and where they could publish the information.
MR VALLY: Is it correct Doctor Basson, that in the first few years, say in the first five years of the founding of RRL it was almost exclusively work for the South African Defence Force?
DR BASSON: I can't comment whether it was exclusively work for the Defence Force. Like anything else, the priority at that stage was to develop the military capabilities. It is so that perhaps during the first few years the private work from outside was not so important but at a certain stage I think they were of equal importance.
MR VALLY: Were you the person who determined what scientific experiments or developments should take place at RRL?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Well who was then?
DR BASSON: After we had recruited those scientists and after we briefed them regarding the instructions and the purpose of the project, everyone of these scientists had the opportunity to on their own study the certain fields, identified the threats, determined the capabilities to establish the whole project.
After that, after the scientists had the necessary time they came back to me, and Professor Folb will know that no one such person can do such a big project.
MR VALLY: So they reported to you on scientific results they obtained, would that be correct?
DR BASSON: That is not correct. They reported back to me and confirmed which capabilities were required to manage this laboratory and in which directions research had to be done and what their priorities were.
After they briefed me I took this information and presented it to the technical work group. They were a collection of various scientists. This submission to the technical work group was sometimes in a formal manner, sometimes informal.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, will you just stop there. Did they report to you and thereafter you took it to this technical sub-committee? Was the first step that they reported to you on the scientific developments in RRL?
DR BASSON: It is correct that they reported to me with regard to the recommendations.
MR VALLY: Fine. Let's just stop there. Now, do you know Mr Swanepoel?
DR BASSON: I know a Doctor Swanepoel yes.
MR VALLY: I beg your pardon. Doctor Swanepoel the dentist?
DR BASSON: That is correct.
MR VALLY: And what was his position at RRL?
DR BASSON: What is or what was?
MR VALLY: What was his position?
DR BASSON: Somewhere in the middle of the 1980's, I'm not sure, I think '86, Doctor Swanepoel was requested by the Co-ordinating Management Committee and the Work Group for Management and Finances to go to RRL to solve certain management and financial problems there.
Initially he was appointed, and I'm talking under correction, as an Assistant Director or Assistant Managing Director and later the Financial and Management Committee found that it became necessary to appoint him as the Managing Director.
MR VALLY: Now he as Managing Director had no knowledge of research projects which took place at RRL, would that be correct?
DR BASSON: I said that he had to go there to solve the financial and management problems. ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: I heard what you said, please answer my question.
DR BASSON: As such he was not a qualified scientist and I could not expect from him that he had knowledge of the detailed scientific research which was done there ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: So he would have no knowledge of the South African Defence Force Projects carried out at RRL?
DR BASSON: That is not what I'm saying. You are putting words into my mouth.
MR VALLY: I'm asking you that question.
DR BASSON: I said he would have knowledge ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: No, my question is this, did he have knowledge of the South African Defence Force projects carried out at RRL?
DR BASSON: Doctor Swanepoel knew that the SADF used Roodeplaat Research Laboratories to do projects.
MR VALLY: Would he be aware of what those projects are?
DR BASSON: He not necessarily have known the detailed nature of the projects, it was not necessary for him.
MR VALLY: Did you know the details of those projects.
DR BASSON: Insofar as it was necessary for me to manage the project I had the necessary information. Professor Folb would once again be able to confirm that I am not a qualified ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: I want to put to you that as Project Officer you had knowledge of all the scientific projects carried out at RRL.
DR BASSON: I did not have knowledge of all the projects.
MR VALLY: All the South African Defence Force projects?
DR BASSON: That is correct, not of all the SADF.
MR VALLY: If you do not know about all the SADF projects, who did they report to?
DR BASSON: The researchers had a broad responsibility to work on their own to study certain fields and threats on their own and to do research without being initiated by me.
MR VALLY: Who would they have reported to Doctor Basson?
DR BASSON: If it was important they would have reported to me. If there were no results they would not report it and throw it in the rubbish bin.
MR VALLY: So if they had results on scientific projects they would have reported to you?
DR BASSON: That is correct yes.
MR VALLY: Thank you. And the instructions which came from the Co-ordinating Committee would be conveyed to them via you?
DR BASSON: In most cases that is correct yes.
MR VALLY: So this front company, the link between the front company and the Co-ordinating Committee was yourself?
DR BASSON: Not in totality. I was one of the links.
MR VALLY: In terms of the scientific aspects?
DR BASSON: Once again I was not alone, there were long periods that I was away and there was direct contact between other people. I attended various courses, so I am not the only link.
MR VALLY: Can you tell us specifically who did they report to besides yourself, on scientific issues?
DR BASSON: To the Technical Work Group.
MR VALLY: And who specifically?
DR BASSON: I cannot remember the members of the Technical Work Group but it would have been amongst other, the Director Technical Services or Technical Activities by special forces headquarters. It would have been the Surgeon General at certain instances and various other instances.
MR VALLY: And who are you referring to when you are talking about the Surgeon General? Was it General Nieuwoudt or was it General Knobel?
DR BASSON: Both of them.
MR VALLY: So they would have been informed of the scientific projects being carried out at RRL, in your absence?
DR BASSON: Inasfar as it was necessary to allow the research to run smoothly, yes.
MR VALLY: Well not simply to let it run smoothly because you are a front company you are accountable. They had to report to you what they're doing when they received results. In the normal course of events they would have been reported to the Surgeon Generals, General Nieuwoudt or General Knobel in your absence, are you saying that?
DR BASSON: I'm saying that I was accountable inasfar as the scientific sections were concerned. As far as the financial ...[indistinct] then I was not accountable.
MR VALLY: No, we're talking science only, we're only talking science. You were accountable from a scientific side and in your absence they would report to amongst others, General Nieuwoudt and General Knobel.
DR BASSON: And other individuals who would have had an interest, yes.
MR VALLY: Who?
DR BASSON: I repeat ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: No, no, I want names.
DR BASSON: I can't remember the names, people changed over the years.
CHAIRPERSON: Do you remember the people who in the years came and went? I think that is the general tone of the question. You may have known that there was General Nieuwoudt. I'm just giving examples, General Nieuwoudt, Joop Joubert, Kat Liebenberg. I'm just mentioning the names, not necessarily because they are relevant. That is what he wants to know.
There is a sense that you should know who was there at one stage or the other, in the context of what you are being asked.
DR BASSON: It would have been various people. If I remember correctly it was Colonel Engelbrecht from Special Forces and at a certain stage there were one or two Colonels. I'm trying to remember, I can remember his face but I can't remember his name. Counter Intelligence people, the Generals and the security officers of counter intelligence would have been involved, where threats were identified and I was not available, where threats were provided to RRL for further evaluation. That is about as far as I can come with the names Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally? Maybe this would be a convenient stage to take the tea adjournment.
MR VALLY: Could I ask that the tea adjournment be curtailed Mr Chair to 15 minutes instead of half an hour?
CHAIRPERSON: So be it. We will resume at a quarter past eleven.
CHAIRPERSON: You are still under oath.
WOUTER BASSON: (s.u.o.)
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, let's talk about the fertility programme into which research was conducted at your biological facility at RRL. Who initiated the fertility programme or project rather?
DR BASSON: As far as I know there was no fertility project registered at Roodeplaat.
MR VALLY: Well we've heard evidence here which says and I it was Doctor van Rensburg, and I think your legal representatives may have been present when he gave evidence, where he said he participated in the fertility project and the original assignment to do this programme came from Doctor Wouter Basson.
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I deny that strongly. There was no such instruction and no such project was registered at RRL.
I want to add to that that the investigative unit had enough time and they paid two visits to Riana Borman, the scientist who handled that "peptits sintese" work and where she confirmed to them that there was no fertility control programme. They decided not to accept her evidence. She explained to them and showed them which publications were written regarding the work done at RRL. It had nothing to do with fertility control project.
MR VALLY: Mr Chair, I don't want to get involved with Doctor Wouter Basson about his allegation regarding Doctor Riana Borman's alleged statements.
But can I get it unequivocally from you that there was never any fertility project undertaken by RRL? Are you saying that?
DR BASSON: Chairperson, I cannot answer that question. That question is like asking: "Was there a biological programme at Roodeplaat"? What does Mr Vally mean by a: "fertility programme"?
MR VALLY: Well let me explain to you since you are the medical doctor. A fertility project is a project in terms of which you are trying to control the fertility of human beings reproductive capacities. Was there any such project at RRL?
DR BASSON: No, Chairperson, no such project existed at Roodeplaat Research Laboratory. Not on instruction by the South African Defence Force in any case. What Doctor van Rensburg did on his own I cannot vouch for that.
MR VALLY: I refer you to TRC47 and TRC48. Do you have those documents?
DR BASSON: I have the documents, yes.
MR VALLY: Let's look at TRC47. There's reference here in this document to clones and anti-sperm agents I think. Can you tell us what your understanding of what this document is about?
DR BASSON: I did not compile this document. It seems to me it is a project report while progress is made regarding the cloning of genes and this is a scientific explanation of theoretical information.
MR VALLY: Well let's look at TRC 48 then. Do you see TRC48?
DR BASSON: I see TRC48 yes.
MR VALLY: Do you have any knowledge of this document?
DR BASSON: I don't have any knowledge of this document. It seems to me like an internal Roodeplaat document. I have no knowledge of this.
MR VALLY: So you had no knowledge whatsoever and you deny that you initiated any fertility project?
DR BASSON: I deny that there was any project at Roodeplaat initiated by the Defence Force to control the fertility of people of any race.
MR VALLY: If there was such a project at RRL and the funding for this project came from the South African Defence Force would you say that it was unlawful expenditure?
DR BASSON: No, I have already explained to you that every one of the researchers had the right, had the opportunity to research certain fields of interest at the cost of the Defence Force as part of the development of technology basis. This work was not done on instructions by the Defence Force to control the fertility of any persons.
MR VALLY: You told us earlier that the results of scientific research would be reported to you unless you were absent.
DR BASSON: I also told you that the research was not necessarily reported to me if it was done within the private research of the scientists. If there was negative research and the researcher did not deem it necessary to report it to me, they did not do so.
MR VALLY: So the Defence Force would spend money on projects which researchers would do out of their own interests.
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I'm going to say it for the last time, that it is part of the philosophy of the research brief, that every researcher had the right to do his own research.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, you're not understanding my question.
CHAIRPERSON: Just allow him to finish.
DR BASSON: Each researcher had the right within his own field of interest, his or her own field of interest to a certain degree do research so that they could do other work besides the work for the Defence Force. They were scientists, they had to publish, to write publications and tell other scientists what they were doing.
This specific project was within the field of interest of certain scientists and their field of interest was not the control of the fertility of people. That had to do with the identification of certain sperms and we were interested in this because the of "peptits sintese" project but there was never ever the intention to control the fertility of any people. This is an outright lie.
MR VALLY: So if I understand your long explanation, there would be private projects carried out by researchers in terms of your philosophy which would be paid for by the Defence Force?
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I have to give long answers because Mr Vally has a problem to understand. The answer is yes.
CHAIRPERSON: Gentlemen, can I just say, it would facilitate these proceedings if you just answered questions but questions also must be put directly to the witness and no sarcasm must be laced in either the answers or the questions.
DR BASSON: I apologise for any sarcasm Mr Chairman.
MR VALLY: So you deny Doctor van Rensburg's statement that you personally came to see the scientists at RRL and alleged that Savimbi had a problem in UNITA in terms of his best troops who were female falling pregnant most of the time and wanted some help in this regard? Are you denying that?
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I deny that strongly. Professor Folb is there and he will know the scientific absurdity of this proposal. There are enough substances available.
MR VALLY: This is about the fourth time that you've referred me to Professor Folb. I would appreciate it if you answered questions. Professor Folb is not a witness here. Professor Folb, for the purposes of this inquiry, is a member of our team.
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I apologise that I involve Professor Folb but he and Doctor Randera and Doctor Orr are the members in this hearing who will understand what I'm saying, who originally would have had the knowledge to say this was absurd.
The facts of the matter are, if I had female soldiers there are very good techniques, for example progesterone injections could solve this fertility problem and also the menstrual problems.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, on that issue ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Can I just come in here?
Doctor Wouter Basson, I would like you to relax and I'm going to tell you why I'm saying this. These hearings have been extraordinary because they have been dealing with extraordinary allegations. I can well understand that some of the propositions that may be made to you may in your professional opinion or even in your opinion as a human being, they may sound to be outrageous and they may be of a nature that causes you to express your outrage.
So I think you must understand that they are not meant to rile you. We are all seeking to get a view and the importance of your testifying and stating your views in the strongest way is because we felt it would be unfair if some of these things were said about you and were attributed to without you having an opportunity to reject them as you are doing.
I'm not saying you have done anything wrong, I'm simply saying there may well be instances where I think tempers are going to be rising and the thing is going to end up in a shouting match between you and Mr Vally. So if you can just be laid back.
DR BASSON: I apologise Mr Chairman.
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, I'm just trying to pace down what I seem to be seeing as tempers that are ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: Yes, but I just want to say my "argwaan" is not directed at the Committee or the procedures carried out here. My "argwaan" is directed at the investigators who wasted several days, weeks and hours when they could have sorted out these simple scientific facts with relative ease. Any medical person could see that these remarks are absurd, so my "argwaan" is not directed at the panel or you or anybody else.
CHAIRPERSON: Even if it is against them that you are expressing your outrage ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: For that I apologise.
CHAIRPERSON: Just relax Doctor Basson.
DR BASSON: I apologise for that.
Mr Vally? Doctor Randera?
DR RANDERA: Doctor Basson, can I just take you back to the establishment of this programme. I think earlier on you said that you were part of employing many of the scientists as the Project Officer.
DR BASSON: That is correct.
DR RANDERA: Now I understand this philosophy that you're professing, that as part of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme you employed scientists who also did work in their own right, and this was a front company and therefore you wanted to give some credibility to this company. I understand that.
What I'm also trying to understand is why do you bring someone like Doctor Borman, who I understand even today works as an infertility expert. What is the reason for bringing her into a programme whose central responsibility is to develop chemical and biological potential in a defensive, I'm not even talking about an offensive capability, for defensive purposes?
When you employed her, what was the thinking of bringing a person of her capabilities? I mean earlier on you said yourself you did not actually have any real expertise. I understand, you had a masters in physiology and science. You were a cardiologist, I'm a doctor too you know, you keep referring to Professor Folb but Doctor Orr and myself are also doctors but we're not Chemical and Biological Warfare experts and neither were you at the time. So let us understand why you bring an expert in infertility work into a programme such as this if it was not related in some way to what your purpose was.
DR BASSON: I never meant to discriminate against you and Doctor Orr when referring to Doctor Folb. He was one of the persons who had to identify and solve this problem before the time.
I did not employ Doctor Riana Borman. Doctor Riana Borman was appointed by the staff of RRL. If you establish such a laboratory you need specific capabilities from cleaning and security to the physiology laboratory to do certain experiments.
Doctor Borman was initially appointed with the instruction to do certain tests regarding physiology and pharmacological things. That was why she was appointed there and that is what she did all the time, to do physiological tests and observations, to establish that there at RRL. It had nothing to do with CBW. Any laboratory must have it otherwise a person cannot do basic research.
By chance she also had the capability and was also interested in this field and she was recruited from a local hospital, as far as I know, to establish the physiological laboratory there. She explained that to the Investigative Team in her statement or the interview which she had with them, that her fertility ... Later on other projects became connected to that.
DR RANDERA: No, I accept what you're saying but if we look at this document that is in front of us, all the work that she was involved in in one way or another seems to indicate a specific direction. I don't see on this page at any rate, which is under the work that she was doing for this particular year, any of the things that you are referring to.
MR CILLIERS: I just want to know, is the suggestion of the question that that is the totality of her work?
DR RANDERA: No, no.
MR CILLIERS: Because that is how it comes across.
DR RANDERA: That is why I'm saying, as I understand this document it's almost a budget breakdown of the work that was being done for that particular year and I would have expected as the Project Officer for this programme that Doctor Basson would have been aware for that particular year, that this is the work that Doctor Borman is doing.
DR BASSON: No, it's not correct to say that. This is only an extract or a part of all the work Doctor Borman did. I can't comment on TRC48. I don't understand it, it's an internal document referring to budgets. There are certain abbreviations I don't know. I would never have seen such a document. As Project Officer it wasn't necessary for me to have insight in that. This is only a small part of the work being done by Doctor Borman. Doctor Borman was never involved in any Chemical and Biological Warfare projects at all. She supported a physiological laboratory which was used for other purposes.
She identified certain sperm, anti-genes and she wrote publications regarding that, that was part of her research.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: Thank you Mr Chairperson. Mr Chairperson, for the record there is a total distortion of what the investigators' interviews with Doctor Borman were but I don't think I should get involved with Doctor Basson about this since he wasn't the party that they had the interview with.
I will go on with my questions. So we've got Doctor Schalk van Rensburg who says that you initiated the project, and let's not fool around, try and impress us with Depo Provera, we know about Depo Provera. The suggestion was there were attempts at surreptitiously introducing fertility control products, medicines, whatever you want to call it, into items which people would use for drinking purposes or whatever and I want to quote to you what Doctor van Rensburg said. He said:
"We were not requested, we were told. As I said the only reasons we were given was refugee camps and Savimbi's female soldiers but I say logistically they're rather silly reasons for such a major project. One assumed they wanted to use it on a larger scale. I can't say they wanted to use it covertly, it might be a genuine attempt to make a product available to a population that wants it. These immunisations as I say are first, easy to detect and secondly, in most cases very reversible. So it would be a very desirable project and there are huge amounts ..."
And he goes on. He also says:
"Basically of course we didn't really believe the motivation that Doctor Basson gave. Maybe he was right, maybe he was wrong but I was suspicious. We didn't worry too much, I didn't worry too much. Having looked at it I thought it's a good project. We appointed Doctor Riana Borman to actually lead the project. I was an advisor, technical advisor"
And then he goes on:
"There was no reason at any stage whatsoever of developing a vaccine that only works in blacks or that's colour or ethnic based. Biochemically blacks, whites, Chinese or whatever are identical. There is nothing, no academic reason or a difference that you can look on to make racially based vaccines. There's no such thing that I know of. So we told him at an early stage after doing the literature reviews, and I quote: 'Do you understand Doctor Basson, the thing is very easily detectible'. It was Doctor Basson and Wynand Swanepoel who pushed this constantly"
And further on:
"They said that didn't worry them, we were to carry on"
Now he is very specific about his allegations regarding you. Let's see what Doctor Goosen says. Doctor Goosen says:
"Our final brief or the other brief was a very, very important one. It was to develop a product to curtail the birth rate of the black population in the country"
and the question he was asked:
"Could you tell us a little bit more about this? Who asked you to develop this product"?
and doctor Goosen answers:
"The person who directly instructed us or asked us to do this was Doctor Basson. Now there was a lot of talk about the ethics of this, that and the other and the rest. He spent some time quoting to us the census figures for 1982 or 1981 or whenever the census was. I can't remember exactly that the census office stopped counting the black when they reached 45 million. And the government decided it is not feasible to make known to the public that there were 45 million blacks, it was just too many. And this was mainly one of our big threats. I think the figure of 28 million was made know. Now if those are true facts I wouldn't know. Up till today I don't know but that was presented to us by Doctor Basson"
Both these doctors, scientists working at RRL, why would they give such detailed information concerning your involvement in this issue?
DR BASSON: Chairperson, I hope I'm going to get as much time to answer that question as what the question took to be asked.
I cannot speak on behalf of Doctor Goosen or Doctor van Rensburg. I do not know what they said and I deny categorically everything that they would have said with regard to this.
I just would like to tell you that both Doctor Goosen and Doctor van Rensburg on several occasions in my presence because they were unhappy with the fact that they were fired because of incompetence and other activities, threatened Surgeon General Knobel that they'd make these kinds of allegations in an attempt to persuade the Surgeon General to give them financial reparation. I'm used to this kind of misperception by both of them.
Otherwise I cannot give comment except by saying I deny it and secondly, that there is no scientific basis on which this sort of vaccine could have been applied, to suggest that it could clandestinely be used to use it in drinking water. How can you do it with a protein because a protein is an anti-body. It can only be done by means of injections. How do you control such a thing? It's ridiculous to think that we would have been able to distribute such a vaccine so it hits the specific target group.
I can only say that the allegations of both Doctor van Rensburg and Doctor Goosen as well as the scientific and operational basis which they suggest is absolutely laughable.
CHAIRPERSON: Are you then saying that they had a motive to implicate you or to lie to us? And I think that was the essence of his question, what reason would he have.
DR BASSON: I can't say that they had motivation to tell you that I'm lying. All I can tell you is that both of them, as you said this morning, must be seen in the context that both of them were unhappy and on several occasions they threatened. They did not threaten me because I can't give them money but they threatened the system by means of the Surgeon General and said that they'd make this kind of disclosure. That is my answer.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: You have told us that TRC47 and 48 you have not seen before, you have no knowledge of them but you do note that both of them say that they are strictly confidential. Do you note the stamp thereon?
DR BASSON: Chairperson, I cannot comment with regards to internal documentation of Roodeplaat. As far as I know all their documents, even those of private clients because they made money out of it and you can go to any research laboratory today and I won't mention names because they say that I accused them, you can go to anyone of these and you will find there that certain work which was done for Mosgas, excuse me for using an example, by some other universities also were strictly confidential.
So it was an internal decision of RRl, that's all. It wasn't my instruction it should classified like this. I had nothing to do with the classification at all.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, let us go one. Doctor Goosen also says in 1983 or 1984 you personally presented him with a document, he says with a scenario and a document, which document was allegedly delivered to the military attaché in London. In terms of which a person alleged that he had a product, an ethnic specific bacteria which had the possibility of making sick and killing pigmented people. It was in 1984.
There's a cloak and dagger operation as to how he was to be contacted. However, it was decided not to sent Doctor Goosen to London because it was felt this was a trap in the same way that the Armscor persons were arrested in Paris, I think trying to buy some arms from or sell arms to the loyalist factions in Northern Ireland. So because that had happened shortly before that he was not sent out there.
Do you have any knowledge of this scenario, where you were going to send Doctor Daan Goosen to follow up a lead on ethnic specific bacteria?
DR BASSON: The answer is no, Chairperson. Can I elaborate on that please as I think it's quite important for the public and the audience.
I cannot remember this specific incident and I also deny it, but I'd also like to tell you that it was a part of the defensive role which we played in the project. If such a weapon to our knowledge then I would have failed in my task if I did not follow up on it and did not determine if it's not actually the case, because the implications for the use of this against the population in South Africa would have been phenomenal. I deny that I've ever given Goosen this instruction but it was part of my job to take notice of these things. I also want to put it clearly that the greatest data base for Chemical and Biological Warfare which I accept Professor Folb as Technical Advisor for the Committee or the Investigative Unit investigated this, it's ...[indistinct] documentation.
They brought out a document of over 250 pages with regards to research which was done in America, research in Russia with regard to ethnic specific weapons up until 1986. And I want to put it that there is no biological, no genetic, no physical base on which one can develop an ethnic weapon.
This is the conclusion to which the American Government as well as the defensive organisations, the Russian Government and their defensive organisations and the Swedes, this is what they said. So something like that would not have been possible. If there was such an allegation I as the leader of the project, like any other threat I would have had it analysed but I was not aware of such a threat. I'm not aware of such an instruction to Doctor Goosen.
CHAIRPERSON: Well I think the essence of the question was not so much the conclusion that was actually arrived at, that such weapon could be developed but that there were attempts to do some research in that direction and I think that was the essence of the question and whether you ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: By whom Mr Chairperson? Attempts by whom? I don't understand what you are saying.
CHAIRPERSON: Well as I understand it the questions are being put to you insofar as you may have been involved in a programme to do research in that direction.
DR BASSON: We were never involved Chairperson in any research there. It wasn't necessary to the that research. It would have been a total waste of the state's money because it's impossible.
Up to and including 1998, 31st July, it's impossible with the current status of science to consider something like that.
CHAIRPERSON: Well I must say, if it comes to waste and attempts that were done stranger things have happened in this country where money was wasted on projects which you would never have thought there would even have been an attempt. So I'm just saying I understand, I hear what you are saying but it is no reason to say on the evidence that may be available no such thing could have been embarked on simply because we are now able to conclude that it is impossible.
DR BASSON: I can state to you categorically our recommendation to the Defence Force was: this is not possible because the threat against the people of South Africa where the black people were part of this, I had to analyse this whole threat and I would have investigated on a theoretical basis. No research was done with regards to this.
CHAIRPERSON: I hear you.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, in this period we did have in South Africa a political situation in terms of which only white people were allowed to vote. We did have a government in South African which only represented the white ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: Mr Chairperson, this ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: Mr Chairperson, I need to finish this.
DR BASSON: What has it got to do with Chemical and Biological Warfare?
CHAIRPERSON: It might have all the relevance in the world. Be patient. I thought we had come to an agreement, just be patient please.
MR VALLY: You as a person in charge of the Chemical and Biological Warfare side, as Project Officer, isn't is logical that a fundamental racist government which was not - please Doctor Basson, you counsel will intervene if necessary, isn't it logical that a fundamentally racist government would want to try and achieve means of decreasing the black population, of rendering as many of them infertile or sterile as possible? Isn't it logical if it's very fundamental basis for existing is a racist premise?
CHAIRPERSON: May I just, maybe not using such strong language, I'm not saying it is wrong language. I'm sure you'll take judicial notice of the fact that there were pronouncements if I remember well, in the period in the '80's certainly from politicians that black population should be curbed and curtailed and there was even a corresponding call to members of the white population to, for lack of a better word, to have more babies and to have more children and this seemed to be very strange coming from politicians.
So it doesn't really come as something that has no historical background, that there were calls by politicians. I think if my memory serves me well, and then I don't seek to speak ill of the dead, Mr M C Botha was one of those politicians who made that sort of call in his heyday, that the view was established that there seemed to be many black people and that there was a need for their proliferance to be curtailed and a call was made to white parents to produce more babies.
DR BASSON: Mr Chairperson, if I may answer. I'm not a politician and in my life I have never paid any attention to what politicians said. I must admit that this statement about the curbing of people would give me a new idea about Chemical and Biological Warfare, it could have been fun to try and use it.
CHAIRPERSON: Well there is a proposition that has been made that, and incidentally some of the evidence that has been led certainly from General Knobel, was that there may well have been a good intention on the part of those who were behind the establishment of the programme because as a defensive programme it could be justified but the develop and abuse of the programme. So you must bear in mind that some of the questions that we put in relation to which we have not made any judgement at all incidentally, are influenced by evidence which exists and which seems to suggest that what might well have started as a good programme was abused by others, by among others yourself. I know what position you take in regard thereto.
So you must understand that there is a broader picture in the context of which we put some of the questions.
DR BASSON: I said that I'm not a politician. I cannot comment on what he said because I do not know what he said.
Can I give an example of a political intervention or where I was exposed to political influence within this programme? Maybe this would also help Mr Vally understand how instruction giving worked at Roodeplaat and it will also show the sensitivity of the politicians who I was involved with.
In the mid '80's I think '86 or '87 I was called to General Malan's office. He was Minster of Defence. And he showed me a document which was an information report. The Head of Staff Information also gave me this or Intelligence, and in this intelligence report there was obvious information that certain members of the ANC at that stage for purpose which I'll mention now, they wanted to make and attempt to kill Mr Mandela within the jail. The reason for this would be that they regarded him as a threat for their own young ambitions and they also thought that he would not be radical enough.
Mr Malan on instruction of the CCC gave an instruction to me to use all possible measures and to put them into place to make sure that for the benefit of this country and the co-operation of the people in future, that Mr Mandela stays alive at all costs. I then went in a classical military method. I interpreted that instruction and I interpreted that instruction on the classically military method by introducing a blue force and a red force.
The blue force scientist I would give an instruction to investigate all ways of killing Mandela in jail and I would leave them with that. They would do a theoretical research, they could do what they want. I would say to the red force: "Kill Mr Mandela". The blue forces, because blue forces were always friendly in military terms: "Develop all techniques to save and to defend Mr Mandela and make sure that nothing happens to him in jail".
After months of research and instruction giving, the red force comes with a plan to kill Mr Mandela and the blue force comes with a plan to protect Mr Mandela, in other words security measure which has to be put into place. So I take those two plans and I integrate them into one plan. Sometimes the red forces think of something the blue forces forgot to think about and the other way around.
My job was to eventually integrate those plans and to set a protection plan for Mr Mandela to ensure that he does not become the target of forces which would destabilise the future of this country.
I then handed that plan over to the necessary authority. I remained the technical advisor for such a plan and the priorities implement the matter further. The fact that Mandela is still alive today can be ascribed to the fact and the way in which the political leaders of that time saved his life in order to ensure the future of this country. That is how the instruction giving would have worked. That is the sensitivities of those politicians which I had contact with.
I did not know M C Both, I do not know what he did but the politicians I did work with never made these aspirations clear to me or never disclosed such aspirations to us.
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Vally?
MR CILLIERS: Chairperson, can I just interrupt here for the purposes of the record? Reference was me to this programme with regards to what would attack the fertility of the black people and what Knobel also said. According to what you've said General Knobel referred to the broad project of biological warfare and there were certain aspects which might have been misused by certain individuals. The impression that is left because of the debate between you and Doctor Basson is that is this specific aspect ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, no.
MR CILLIERS: I just want to put that part right so that there is ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, you are right.
MR CILLIERS: Thank you Chairperson.
CHAIRPERSON: No, no, I think I was putting it as some example, that the programme and not specifically the infertility research just the programme but I take your point.
MR CILLIERS: Thank you.
MR VALLY: Your example is very interesting. You don't have that document here do you?
DR BASSON: ...[inaudible]
MR VALLY: The document that General Magnus Malan allegedly showed you.
DR BASSON: No I do not. I never had that document in my possession, it wasn't my brief.
MR VALLY: Are you aware of the State Security document we gave to your lawyers wherein there was discussions of plans to possible as an option poison President Mandela while he was in prison?
DR BASSON: I never saw this document. I received notice of the argument but I did not read that in that document or any plan to poison Mandela. There were several options made by a sub-committee, it wasn't even the State Security Council, a sub-committee of the State Security Council considered in terms of release.
I did not see the document and I made no recommendations about that document. I cannot comment on that document. It was not General Malan's instruction to me. It was not approach of the managers of the project. I distance myself from that document. I bear no knowledge thereof.
MR VALLY: Alright. But the fact is that you make an allegation that possibly President Mandela is alive because of your work or on the contrary the possibility also exists that President Mandela is alive because there was no such plan by the ANC to murder him. Is that a possibility?
DR BASSON: I cannot comment on anything except that which I've seen in writing.
MR VALLY: Fine. You say you saw a document which you can't produce right now. We have tendered a document to your attorneys headed:
"Secretariat of the State Security Council"
Do you General Major JFJ van Rensburg?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: This document is dated March 1986 where one of the options is the poisoning of President Mandela, are you aware of that?
DR BASSON: I am not aware that it is written in the document as an option. I do not know this document, I cannot comment on the document, I did not draw up this document, I had nothing to do with this document and I carry no knowledge of this document. This is the last time I am saying this.
MR VALLY: I understand that your ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Doctor Basson, Doctor Basson, take it easy. If he repeats questions it is his prerogative until I think he is being very provocative. I will protect you. Your lawyer will protect you.
DR BASSON: Thank you. I was just under the impression that he is acting as if this is cross-examination. This is not cross-examination, this should be an attempt to find the information.
CHAIRPERSON: Doctor Basson, you have got a panel of five people who will look after your interest apart from the fact that your lawyers are very quick to make sure that your best interest are protected. Please, please, let's - if we never finish today we never finish, so let's take it one day at a time.
MR VALLY: What I'm putting to you is simply this, that there is a document in the name of the State Security Council, which has an option, talks about ensuring that when President Mandela is released he would be in a weak physical condition in terms of his health so that he will not last long as leader. I am not saying that you had anything to do with it, that will be my following question. But, are you aware of such a document? Did you attorneys or your legal representatives make it available to you?
CHAIRPERSON: Well he has already said, what he saw of the document was ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: Mr Chair, there are two different documents we're talking about. There is an allegation that General Magnus Malan showed him a document which said the ANC were going to kill President Mandela ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: No, but hen he had indicated Mr Vally, I'm sorry, he had indicated that he doesn't have that document, he cannot produce it.
MR VALLY: That's right.
CHAIRPERSON: And I think you went on to talk about a document which was tendered in these proceedings.
MR VALLY: Yes.
CHAIRPERSON: And I think what he has been saying is that he is not the author of that document, he knows nothing about that document but in any event there is nothing in that document that suggests that Mr Mandela was to be poisoned.
I don't know whether you want to establish whether it is the document that you tendered in court that he has been referring to, in that context.
MR CILLIERS: Chairperson, on the same basis I do not want to really object because we are wasting time and time is limited but there is no recommendation or conclusion or suggestion in that document of poisoning.
CHAIRPERSON: That is a matter for argument.
MR CILLIERS: It's a question of argument.
CHAIRPERSON: But I think he wants to establish whether in fact we are talking about the same document.
MR CILLIERS: It is the document. The witness has said on several occasions that he has never seen that document. He saw it now after he came forward here but what is the relevance of asking questions about that document when the witness says: "It's got nothing to do with me, I have never seen it before, I know nothing about it, I don't even know the parties that are mentioned therein, the General who is referred to".
CHAIRPERSON: No, I think what Mr Vally wants to establish is whether since it was tendered he has become aware of its contents.
Is that what you are wanting to establish Mr Vally?
MR VALLY: That is correct Mr Chairman.
MR CILLIERS: I'm placing this in front of him now and if Mr Vally wants to refer to this he's welcome. I just want to place it on record that we have already spent a lot of time arguing on his interpretation thereof and I don't want to do it again, but Mr Vally is wrong if he tries to suggest that there was some kind of poisoning undertone in this document. I don't want to waste your time with further argument in this regard, it's already been done. ...[transcriber's own translation]
CHAIRPERSON: I understand Mr Cilliers. You have made the point even at the time that it was being tendered and I understand that you are wanting to say it is not the only conclusion that can be arrived at on a close reading of that document. Mr Vally holds a different view.
And I think your client in his reply has actually taken a position which is consonant with yours as far as the contents thereof are concerned. I think at this point he was seeking only to establish whether we are talking about the same document and you have already indicated that that is the document.
MR CILLIERS: If that is all, the document is before of the witness.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes. Doctor Randera?
DR RANDERA: Doctor Basson, can I just take you back to your red and blue methodology that you developed.
DR BASSON: I did not develop that, it's a classical military ...[intervention]
DR RANDERA: Well your groups of scientists developed it.
DR BASSON: No, it's a classical military planning strategy.
DR RANDERA: No, let's not get into the ... All I'm trying to ask you is that was that one of the, was it the blue group that was looking at how Mr Mandela could be weakened or killed?
DR BASSON: The red group.
DR RANDERA: Was it the red group? Okay. Was that one of the possibilities that your expert group looked at when they proposed ways of either killing Mr Mandela or weakening Mr Mandela?
DR BASSON: I do not understand the questions. What is the: "one of the possibilities"?
DR RANDERA: Let me explain. You said earlier on that you had this discussion with General Malan alright.
DR BASSON: He had a discussion with me I never had a discussion with him.
DR RANDERA: You were in a discussion with him. Let's not play with words. And after that you took a very militaristic position on this and you developed, well there was this development of a red group which looked at the possibility of killing Mr Mandela and a blue group that developed systems whereby he could be protected in the event of something like this taking place.
Now all I'm asking you is that in terms of the option that were put forward by the red group, was this one of the options as put down in this document? Which you have seen, which is in front of you.
DR BASSON: Which option? I'm not sure which option you're referring to.
DR RANDERA: The one that is referred to in this particular document from the State Security Council.
MR CILLIERS: Just to place in front of the witness, there are recommendations at the end of this document. There's five options which is spread all over this document. Can you just be a bit more specific?
DR RANDERA: That's exactly what I'm asking. Was that part of the thinking of this expert group?
DR BASSON: No, Doctor, the groups would have considered all possibilities to render Mr Mandela useless or out of action. I cannot remember all those options but this group as far as I am concerned had no contact with the State Security Council. I never conveyed any of this to them.
We would have acted in the classical military planning method and we would have considered the issue from both sides and at the end I would have integrated two plans and come with a final plan but this was a plan to protect Mr Mandela. There was never a plan, I never submitted an attacking plan. It was a plan to protect Mr Mandela against any possible onslaughts of whichever party.
As far as I am concerned there were some young people in the ANC who wanted to get rid of him, this is what was conveyed to me but what I did in the end was to draw up a plan to ensure that he lives and that he would be in good condition so that he could take over the country because it was already insinuated to me, that that would be the case. Otherwise I would not have received the instruction that he must live forever.
DR RANDERA: And you wouldn't be able to provide us with copies of either of these plans? Either your red group plan or your blue group plan?
DR BASSON: Those documents would be part of the military documentation somewhere. As you know I've already left the force a number of years ago and I've got no documentation available to me.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you Doctor Randera.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, have you every attended meetings with the State Security Council?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Have you ever presented reports to the State Security Council?
DR BASSON: No.
MR VALLY: Who is the most senior politician to whom you've produced reports?
DR BASSON: The Minister of Defence.
MR VALLY: Was General Magnus Malan ever one of these Ministers of Defence to whom you reported?
DR BASSON: Yes.
MR VALLY: Well, let's talk about this further. Is there any other state grouping operating covertly at the time, and I'm talking 1986, which would have been involved in biological or chemical warfare in South African that you know of?
DR BASSON: I don't have knowledge of that and if it was the case I wouldn't have known about it.
MR VALLY: So if I was looking for a tuberculosis bacteria for purposes to be used by State Security Forces, I would come to you?
DR BASSON: My answer is that that is a bad choice of organism but if we look past the technical point you wouldn't have come to me. Somewhere I would have had to receive an instruction or a request from some or other organ or a committee or whatever.
MR VALLY: Absolutely. State Security Council or anyone, anyone ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: I never received any instructions from the State Security Council and/or requests or any ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: I understand that but theoretically I would come to you, you'd be the right person ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: I am advised by me legal counsel not to speculate so I'm not going to even speculate about this.
MR VALLY: Advocate Cilliers, I think that was very inappropriate if you mumbled to him not to speculate.
MR CILLIERS: I take very strong exception against my learned colleague's insinuation. I did not mumble anything. Maybe you have learnt to know me by now, I am not scared to take the microphone and to say what I want to say. Maybe Mr Vally must choose his choice of words better.
I confirm that before Doctor Basson started testifying I told him: "Stick to the facts, we've got limited time, don't become involved in hypothesis or speculation, give the facts to the questions which are asked of you". I confirm that I advised him as such.
CHAIRPERSON: Gentlemen, you are not making my task easy.
MR VALLY: One last question. Would the option of one of these blue or red groups have been, introduced some kind of bacteria and thereby infect President Mandela? Yes or no?
DR BASSON: I cannot answer yes or no to that question because it is not a yes or no answer. I repeat again, to place this in context, there were several recommendations and this have included anything with regards to something that made his eyes blue, to something that makes his hair fall out, to something that would make him wrinkled so that he should look old. Every option would have been considered but it would have been theoretical considerations. The research was not necessarily done with regards to this. The instruction was to identify all possible threats against Mr Mandela and to investigate them and to make sure that the authorities who looked after him should know about the threats and the necessary protection measures can be put into place.
MR VALLY: Can you explain to us Doctor Basson, why you in charge of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme would have to look at security concerns regarding the safety of President Nelson Mandela at that stage, in prison, imprisoned by the then Government? Why would they come to a Chemical and Biological Warfare person for that?
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I cannot answer on behalf of General Malan. Certainly he considered and I can tell you why he considered the option. One of the important pieces of research we did was, the South African Security Forces found a certain ANC cache and we arrested some ANC members. There were a few containers with chemicals in them. They brought those substances to me during the early stages. Those were substances used by sangomas to poison people. I personally spent two days in the hospital because I became exposed to those substances.
I did not drink dettol like the other people, I went to hospital which was a very sensible way of handling it. At that time we thought that the Russians and the East Germans and the Cubans played a very important role in the ANC's approach and then the classical weapons of the Russians and the Cubans would also have been made available to the ANC. I would think that General Malan with the knowledge of those substances we found in an ANC weapon cache, that he would have considered that in the event that there were any members of the ANC who would have killed Mr Mandela, that that was one of the ways.
They could have blown up the prison, the could have poisoned him, put poison in his soup for example. My instruction was to determine which chemical and biological weapons could be used against him and to protect him against such attacks.
MR VALLY: And who was involved with you in determining this? Which specific people in your team?
DR BASSON: We're now talking about the early '80's, I can't remember, it would have been a group of scientists selected from these specific organisations, Roodeplaat and Delta G and whoever else was involved with this. I have reason to believe there may have been some of the researchers from Protechnic who were involved and there were certain analytical laboratories. We involved certain universities where the capabilities were. I don't have the necessary documentation anymore and I'm not going to speculate about it.
MR VALLY: But all under the auspices of the Chemical and Biological Programme?
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I'm not sure what that question means. Can Mr Vally please explain it?
MR VALLY: Very simple. You were the Project Officer of Project Coast, later called Project Jotta which was responsible for the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme of the South African Defence Force ...[intervention]
DR BASSON: The answer to that question is yes, the responsibility for Mr Mandela's security rested on my shoulders as Project Officer of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme inasfar as it concerned a chemical and biological attack on him.
MR VALLY: I want to go to one thing. We have had an enormous quantity of documentation as you well know from the Section 29 Notice that you've been given, yet we've had Minutes of the Co-ordinating Committee Meeting which said that you were instructed to destroy these documents, are you aware of that?
DR BASSON: I did not see the documents, no.
MR VALLY: Are you aware of an instruction from the Co-ordinating Committee that you were to destroy the Technical and Management Reports after putting them onto optical discs?
DR BASSON: I am aware of that that during the course of the project on a regular basis documentation was destroyed after an audit process was completed and as it was decided by the Audit Committee and the Financial Committee that there was a two year period to finalise documentation.
Certain documentation was left over and we put that on disc and the documentation was destroyed, not necessarily by me, by the parties involved. I did not receive instructions to destroy documentation. I was just responsible to co-ordinating all the, or the composition of the scientific information.
MR VALLY: We are talking about the decision to put all the information relevant to the CBW Programme onto optical discs. Coupled with that the destruction of all other documents relating to the programme once the documents had been put onto disk. Are you aware of that instruction?
DR BASSON: I am aware that the documentation was destroyed but I was not responsible for that. I did not give an assurance or undertaking to anybody that all documentation was destroyed.
MR VALLY: Are you aware that there was a report-back to the Co-ordinating Committee that the documents had in fact been destroyed after the documents were put on optical disc?
DR BASSON: Can you give me the date of the report-back please?
MR VALLY: We can. It was in 1994 and I believe it was in March.
DR BASSON: In March 1994 I was not a member of the South African Defence Force anymore and I had no contact with the Co-ordinating Management Committee anymore.
MR VALLY: You had absolutely no contact with them?
DR BASSON: None that I attended formal meetings, not as far as I can remember.
MR VALLY: Weren't you involved in a number of meetings where you had to report on what happened to all the money which disappeared in Croatia?
DR BASSON: I'm not going to comment on the money which disappeared in Croatia ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: I'm not asking you about the money, I'm asking about your presence at the Meeting of the Co-ordinating Committee.
DR BASSON: Periodically I reported back on the request of individuals in the CCC.
MR VALLY: Exactly, so don't say you were not at Co-ordinating Committee meetings in 1994.
DR BASSON: I've attended no Committee meetings in a formal capacity, not as far as I can remember.
MR VALLY: And you may have attended in an informal capacity?
DR BASSON: I can't remember that.
MR VALLY: Well I put it to you that you did.
DR BASSON: It is possible, I can't remember.
CHAIRPERSON: Well it is not really being contested Mr Vally. He says he was no longer a member of the Defence Force but there were occasions when he had to attend and I think there is a qualification. It is not a total denial of contact with the relevant authorities. Could we get onto something else?
MR VALLY: You see General Knobel testified to us, he said that you reported to him and he was satisfied with your report because he reported to the Co-ordinating Committee that all the documentation had been destroyed. When I put to him - I'll read out to you what he said:
"The fact is that we know that Brigadier Basson advised you that he had destroyed all the technical documents".
"Absolutely, he also does at a Co-ordinating Management Committee meeting. And the fact we know he lied ..."
... this is referring to you. And General Knobel's response was:
"Yes, that's true"
DR BASSON: Mr Chairman, I want to make it clear once and for all ...[intervention]
MR VALLY: Let me continue please General Basson, Brigadier Basson, I'm sorry. I'm not sure if you still have your military rank. Let's call you Doctor Basson.
DR BASSON: General, General will be fine thank you.
MR VALLY: I'm sure. Doctor Basson, I go on to say:
"So he may have lied about lots of other things"?
and General Knobel says:
"That's also true"
Now there are Management Committee meetings in terms of which reports are made that these documentations have been destroyed. We have under oath, evidence from General Knobel wherein he said that you had advised him the documents had been destroyed. By virtue of the fact that these documents still exist he confirmed that you must have lied to him. Would you like to comment on this?
MR CILLIERS: May I just enquire, what is the relevance of this specific question? You've been trying to ask the question for about five minutes. I don't even really know what the question is, but what is the relevance of this aspect regarding the investigation you are busy with at the moment? On that basis I object to this question.
MR VALLY: Mr Chair, to enlighten my learned friend, the relevance of the question is simply to determine to what extent was General Knobel kept informed and honestly informed of various incidents, to what extent was the Co-ordinating Committee kept informed and honesty informed of various incidents and if General Knobel who was the Project Manager says that his Project Officer, Doctor Basson lied to him about the destruction of documents, the question is what else is Doctor Basson alleged to have lied about? I want to determine whether General Knobel's statement that Doctor Basson lied to him about the destruction of documents, what Doctor Basson's comment on that is.
MR CILLIERS: I can understand if you're asking him in which way did you mislead Knobel and why. Just ask a question which we can understand and which can be answered and will not take an hour to get to the question.
CHAIRPERSON: I take your point Mr Cilliers.
Mr Vally, if you could put questions that are more pointed to the witness.
MR VALLY: The question is very simply, General Knobel said that he understood it was your responsibility to ensure that the documents were destroyed, that you reported back to him that the documents were destroyed and by virtue of the fact that the documents were not destroyed, just in terms of the documents we have here, that you in fact lied to him. What's your comment on that.
DR BASSON: Maybe Mr Vally can address me as Brigadier/Doctor/General then we will all be right and then he won't have to ask over and over.
MR VALLY: You're not funny Doctor Basson, just answer the question.
DR BASSON: The fact of the matter is, it was never my instruction to destroy these documents. It's an Intelligence responsibility. It was never my instruction to report back that all documentation had been destroyed.
That instruction, and I can tell you that Military Intelligence still has documentation regarding this project right to the end. I had no control over that. I could not destroy that. All I did was, between the Defence Force and the contractor who put these documents, the data on the CD Rom, I was the intermediator and I assured them that the documentation was captured on CD Rom. I never gave anybody the assurance that everything was destroyed. It was not may task and it was not my responsibility.
MR VALLY: So Doctor Knobel misled us when he advised us of this?
MR CILLIERS: That is not the witness' function to decide who did not speak the truth, it is your function.
CHAIRPERSON: I think it's legitimate for him to say. No, no, I think that's a legitimate question. He's not asking for his opinion, he's asking if in his view - because I mean it's either he is lying or the General is lying.
MR CILLIERS: But he has given his answer, General Knobel has given his answer. Why should the witness now say that Knobel told a lie?
CHAIRPERSON: We ask that question every day in tribunals which are even more strict on how we should tender the evidence.
MR CILLIERS: With the greatest respect, he was not here when General Knobel said that.
CHAIRPERSON: He was represented.
MR CILLIERS: No, I was not present when General Knobel said that.
CHAIRPERSON: Well that was your loss, you should have been here or at least somebody should have been here.
MR CILLIERS: Well there wasn't, but the fact is ...[intervention]
CHAIRPERSON: Well it is being put - no, no, Mr Cilliers, no, I rule you out order. The question is quite legitimate. It can be put to him and the witness can say: "I don't understand that because I was not here" but you can't really object to the question being illegitimate.
MR CILLIERS: But he's telling you, with respect: "I did not say that to General Knobel because it was not my task" and the question had been answered.
CHAIRPERSON: No, it has not been. The one that he answered has not been.
MR CILLIERS: With respect, it is my submission to you that you cannot expect from a witness, the witness is here to give you the facts and not to say which of them are speaking the truth.
CHAIRPERSON: You are wasting more time Mr Cilliers, with respect. The question is allowed by me to be put to the witness. It is not prejudicial, it is legitimate. Let the witness reply to the question.
DR BASSON: I have no comment on what General Knobel said. I cannot speculate. I was not present when he said that. I stand by what I've said.
CHAIRPERSON: You client is much more intelligent that you allow him for.
MR CILLIERS: I have never argued about that Mr Chairman.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, were you the Project Officer for the company which was given the contract to put the documents of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme on optical disc?
DR BASSON: I don't understand the question Chairperson. How can I be the Project Officer for a company? Can Mr Vally please ask me a proper question then I can answer it.
MR VALLY: Doctor Basson, I will read to you what was told to us by your colleague, Doctor Mijburgh while you were sitting in the audience. I want to know - sorry, I'm just finding the exact position in my notes where it was said:
"Do you remember the contract whereby you had to put all the information acquired about Chemical and Biological Warfare onto compact discs or optical discs"?
DR MIJBURGH: "Yes"
"That was your company that was given the contract"?
DR MIJBURGH: Data Image had that contract, yes.
"And the information that you put on a disc, what happened to it, the source of the information"?
"The hard copies were destroyed, they were shredded"
"And who determined that they were destroyed"?
"No, there were people who worked for Data Image who did this"
"Did you ever see what was on optical discs"?
"Do you know of anyone who has seen what's on these optical discs"?
"The people who scan these things"
And I go on and I say:
"And Doctor Basson"?
"He was not involved in the scanning as far as I can recall"
And I asked the question:
"So he wasn't involved at all"?
And Dr Mijburgh says:
"No, he was part of that project in the sense that he was the person who gave the instruction"
And I asked:
"What date was this"
"1992 or 1993. I speak under correction, it could have been later as well"
I ask the question:
"The person responsible for that project you say was Doctor Basson"?
And Doctor Mijburgh answers:
"He was the Project Officer, yes"
And I go on:
"The Project Officer where all this information is put on optical disc"?
And he says:
I ask him:
"Through Data Image"?
And he says:
Are you saying that Doctor Mijburgh lied to us?
MR CILLIERS: Can my learned friend just repeat the question that leads him to the conclusion that there is a difference.
MR VALLY: I think Advocate Cilliers is really taking advantage now. I'll ask the question again.
MR CILLIERS: Then I'm going to do it.
MR VALLY: Very simply, were you responsible for the project in terms of which documents were destroyed and documents were scanned. Were you involved in a project in terms of which documents were scanned onto optical discs relating to the Chemical and Biological Warfare Programmes and were thereafter destroyed, as Doctor Mijburgh alleges?
DR BASSON: As Project Officer for Project Coast I handled a sub-project according to which time there was a contract was awarded to Data Image to capture the available documentation on CD Rom. Before this project was completed I left the services of the South African Defence Force. That project surely was initiated near the end of 1992. In December 1993 I was asked to leave the South African Defence Force. My function were terminated in the Defence Force, if I remember correctly, on the 31st of March, for tax purposes and after that I had no contact with this project anymore. My successor, Colonel Steyn probably completed the project.
I have no idea what the project, how it was completed. I have never with my own eyes seen that CD Rom. I don't know even know that they exist because at that stage I was not part of the project anymore. I gave the instruction that it had to be captured. I had no arrangement in respect of any CD Roms. ...[transcriber's own translation]
MR VALLY: You have just said you're not even aware if they exist.
DR BASSON: That is the truth. I was not in the service of the Defence Force anymore when that project was completed. You must ask the people who were in the project at that time where they are and if they exist. I don't even know if they exist. I have never seen them because I left the Defence Force before the project was completed.
MR VALLY: Well we've got evidence under oath from both Doctor Mijburgh and General Knobel to the effect that the person who knows what's on those optical discs is you. Are you denying that?
DR BASSON: That is correct in the sense that I gave instructions that all information must be captured on CD Rom.
MR VALLY: I'm not talking what instructions, I'm talking what actually knowing what specifically is on those famous optical discs. Are you saying you do know?
DR BASSON: Chairperson, I'm going to say it now for the last time, there is no difference between Doctor Mijburgh's version and my version. Doctor Mijburgh said I gave the instruction, that is correct. I repeat, I was not present with the scanning of each document which was scanned. It was a vast amount of documentation and I didn't have time for that. Furthermore I was out of the service of the Defence Force when the project was completed. I don't even know when the project was completed.
You must ask the people who were involved with the project at that time. I have never ever had those CD's in my hand. I didn't even have a key for the safe. I wish I did then I would also be in the newspaper. I had nothing of those CD's. I gave the instruction that the information must be captured and gave instructions which information had to be captured. ...[transcriber's own translation]
ADV POTGIETER: Doctor Basson, did you at any stage confirm with General Knobel that this instruction was carried out?
DR BASSON: I did not confirm with him that this was carried out. According to my knowledge Colonel Steyn, I can't remember, it was a long time ago, Colonel Steyn receive those CD's and forwarded it. I don't even know - no, I can't say that, I suspect in which safe it would have been locked away but I did not have the ability to confirm. I've just said this was the instruction and according to me it was carried out. I did not have any individual control over the project.
ADV POTGIETER: So are you telling us that you reported to General Knobel?
DR BASSON: That is not what I said, I said I could not supply him with a final report even if I wanted to. I could have just commented to him in passing that it was successfully completed. I could not give such feedback because most of 1993 I was not even in the country and for a large part of 1994 I was also not in the country.
ADV POTGIETER: So in other words you say you could have said it to him in passing?
DR BASSON: Yes, it is possible, I can't deny that but I didn't not formally sign a paper and say: "I hereby certify that the instruction was carried out in full" because I couldn't do it. I never had that access or control. I wasn't in the service anymore. And for a great part of 1993 when the work had to be done I wasn't in the country. ...[transcriber's own translation]