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The last witnesses: The prosecution at Dr Wouter Basson's trial called nearly 200 witnesses. Basson called none in his defence. Below is a selection of the last witnesses and excerpts of what they said. (Special report: South Africa) .

General Ernst Nieuwoudt, retired SADF officer after 38 years service:

He spent all but four of those 38 years in the Military Intelligence's counter-intelligence section. He was responsible for dealing with cases of espionage in the SADF and in 1983, as a brigadier, was in charge of all counter-intelligence investigations.

He testified that in 1983 he was informed by the Directorate Covert Collection that there was a source inside the SADF who was passing highly sensitive operational information to the ANC about flight schedules, air crews, cargo and destinations.

He said he was ordered by the then chief of staff (intelligence), General Pieter van der Westhuizen, to find the leak as a matter of priority. By a process of elimination, he established that the only possible source of the information was one Roland Hunter.

He informed Gen Westhuizen, expecting the general to instruct him to immediately inform the security police. Instead, the general told him that Dr Basson had a plan to solve the problem. He said Basson then came to his (Nieuwoudts) office and laid out the plan.

He said Basson said Hunter was to be taken to the South West Africa (now Namibia) operational area, where he would be killed in a way that would "imitate" a lethal snakebite.

After the meeting, he said, Gen Westhuizen, his superior officer, told him that he would no longer be needed for the Hunter operation, and that the head of Hunter's unit would handle the matter through the security police.

But Basson denied ever telling Nieuwoudt that there was a plan to kill Hunter and make it look like snakebite.

Dr Phil Meyer:

SADF doctor from 1981 to 1989, Meyer was stationed at 1 Military Hospital, Pretoria, from 1981 to 1984, and spent 1985 as a member of 7 Medical Battalion at Special Force headquarters, where his chief task was supervising the packing and despatch of medical supplies to Unita, the Angolan rebel movement headed by Jonas Savimbi.

He was attached to Military Intelligence from 1986 to 1989, most of which he spent in the Namibian operational area and Angola as chief of Unita medical services.

He told the court that Ward 15 at 1 Military Hospital was an "extremely sensitive" ward, where members of Unita and other foreign patients -- "from African states, for example" -- were treated from time to time.

Part of his responsibility was to admit these patients to the ward and inform the commanding officer of their presence. He said access to Ward 15 was strictly restricted.

At the end of 1984, Meyer was transferred to 7 Medical Battalion, and Basson became his commanding officer. Around the end of August 1985, Meyer said he was ordered to accompany Basson and Dr Deon Erasmus to Ward 15. He assumes his presence was required due to his training two years earlier in interrogation techniques.

At the hospital, the three men went to a small private ward. An unidentified black man was in the bed, attached to an intravenous drip.

Meyer said he was told that the patient had ANC connections, but that his precise role was unclear and he had to be interrogated to establish who and what he was.

He said that either Basson or Erasmus injected a substance into the drip and one or the other then asked the patient various questions, working from a standard military interrogation list.

He said the patient was fully conscious at first, but became drowsy after administration of the substance. The session lasted about an hour, but it did not produce the desired responses, or any information of value.

He said the next day, he returned to the hospital with Basson and Erasmus, and the procedure was repeated, again for about an hour, and again without satisfactory results, None of the doctors wore surgical masks, and their faces were visible to the patient at all times.

He said at some point during the interrogation sessions, there was a "discussion" to the effect that the patient would "have to be sorted out" afterwards. To prevent him from identifying those involved, or telling anyone about the interrogation procedure, he would have to be "taken out" (murdered). Meyer said he never saw or heard anything about the patient again.

But Basson denied ever being involved in the chemical interrogation of anyone for any but medical diagnostic reasons. He confirmed that diagnosis by chemicals was generally used in combat conditions, but said chemicals were never administered to anyone for "improper" purposes.

Gerbus Muller, clinical toxicologist, Stellenbosch University:

Muller was asked to testify about the alleged poisoning of Rev. Frank Chikane on the basis of having examined his medical records. He was also asked to review the medical records of Enoch Dlamini and Gibson Mondlane, both of whom the prosecution believes were poisoned.

Muller said Rev Chikane's medical records showed an acute case of organophosphate poisoning.

Magdele Jackel, senior staff officer (interrogation), Military Intelligence HQ:

Jackel said most of her experience was gained through interrogation of Swapo prisoners of war in Ovamboland. She knows Basson, having first met him when he delivered a lecture at one of her training courses.

She said in 1987 she was involved in the interrogation of an ANC member, and was "aware" that anaesthetics could be administered to detainees during interrogation.

The ANC man was a defector, but although Jackel and a colleague were satisfied, after interrogating him, that his change of heart was genuine, there was still suspicion in some quarters that he was masquerading as a defector in order to infiltrate the SADF as a spy.

Jackel said she took her dilemma to Basson, a brigadier at the time, and asked if he could help her determine once and for all whether the man was a genuine defector or not, by administering an anaesthetic during interrogation.

She said Basson told her this could be done -- but that Jackel should realise that once the procedure had been applied, the man "would have to say goodbye".

There was no question in her mind, Jackel told the court, that what Basson meant was that the man would have to be killed.

But Jaap Cilliers, Basson's lawyer, said his client had no memory of any discussion with Jackel on chemical interrogation, if she had ever asked him about it, Basson would have told her "there is no such thing".

Michael Kennedy, recently retired deputy director, National Intelligence Agency (NIA):

He told the court that in 1996, Basson had approached the NIA saying his life had been threatened by a CIA agent. As a result, the NIA assigned a surveillance team to watch over and protect Basson and his family.

Kennedy said during the 1994 debriefing of Basson, after his arrest, he (Basson) told the NIA that he had been required/instructed to "be involved in" the elimination of Roland Hunter (the suspected ANC infiltrator), and that the plan was for Hunter to be taken to the Caprivi in Namibia and killed with a Mamba venom in such a way that it would look like he had died from snakebite.

He said he also had prior information that Basson was involved in the dumping of chemicals in the Atlantic Ocean, using an aircraft.

He said Basson told the NIA that the aircraft had in fact taken off from Air Force Base Waterkloof, and that the chemicals were rather dumped in the Indian Ocean.

Kennedy said another matter of importance to him was the question of human experimentation, as he was seeking information about the CBW programme and alleged abuses.

He said Basson told the NIA that he (Basson) and two or three other people had been the subject of human experimentation during Project Coast.

Kennedy said that several times during the interviews, the NIA agents asked Basson if he had not realised that he had been involved in murder.

His response was the same throughout: "They" were all military targets, and therefore, "it was not murder".

Defence speaks

Speaking for Basson, defence lawyer Jaap Cilliers said his client did not "murder" anybody and urged the court to dismiss the murder charges.

He said this was a highly emotive and sensitive matter, given the political dispensation, but the fact was, the "mere" killing of ANC and SWAPO members during the period in question was not illegal in itself. If this was so, "the entire SADF" would be guilty.

Regarding the alleged poisoning of Chris Chikane, the presiding judge, Willie Hartzenberg, said the prosecution had a problem: How had the policemen -- Chris, Gert and Manie -- been able to apply paraoxon to Chikane's clothing? Where was the evidence that they had done so?

And what had the prosecution to say about the fact that the pills that Dr Immelman was required to doctor in order to poison Dullah Omar were white, while the cardiac medication Omar was raking at the time was pink?

In the light of the evidence, the judge said, it was "highly improbable" that Basson had any direct involvement at all in the substance provided to poison Omar, or the poison beer used to murder Knox Dhlamini or the cholera supplied to Pieter Botes for pollution of the Swapo refugee camp water supply.

But, the state prosecutor Torie Pretorius, replied that Basson's agents or representatives -- in the form of Dr Immelman and the Civil Coperation Bureau (CCB) medical co-ordinators -- were involved, and were acting on his instructions in supplying these substances.

Pretorius reminded the judge that the case against Basson was not about legitimate chemical and biological warfare research, but about the abuse of the programme and its hijacking for criminal ends.

In other words, the judge said, the prosecution case rested on the premise that the abuse must either have been directed by the accused, or that he must at least have been aware of it.

Pretorius agreed.

But this did not explain certain anomalies, said the judge. Why, for instance, had it been necessary for Phaal to travel all the way to Ovamboland in Namibia to administer "jungle juice" containing an anti-coagulant to a detainee, then transport the bleeding and desperately ill man back to Pretoria in an aircraft?

Why couldn't the man simply have been sedated with Vesperax and flown to Pretoria in a healthy condition for the experiment to be conducted?

Pretorius said there would have been no legitimate reason to transport a healthy Swapo prisoner of war to Pretoria -- but once the substance had induced a medical condition that could nor be treated in Namibia, they had to move the man to Pretoria.

Judge Hartzenberg then turned to the defence and told Cilliers that obeying and executing an illegal order was not a defence in law. Cilliers agreed, but said no one could ever have believed that orders to eliminate prisoners of war were illegal.

Cilliers argued that since such "eliminations" (murders) had formed part of operations beyond South Africa's borders, and were covered by the Namibian amnesty, the legality or otherwise was not the concern of the court.

Basson testifies

Basson told the court that in January 1993, he, Ben Steyn and Gen Knobel (the surgeon-general) had briefed the defence minister Eugene Louw about Project Coast. Louw ordered that all the incapacitants, apart from the tear gas (CR) be destroyed and that all research be stopped, but Louw allowed for the continued research into the foam delivery of the CR.

Basson said Louw reckoned that South Africa might need the chemical agents again in the months ahead and therefore wanted the records and production facilities to be shut down in such a way that the project could be re-activated at short notice, if needed.

He said Louw ordered that the existence of CR be denied, "until someone can prove that we have it". He said he was ordered not to divulge any information to anyone, hut to focus on shutting down the Project.

Basson said they were ordered to destroy a number of CBW mortar bombs and other weapons. The Air Force was ordered to arrange a flight and a military intelligence officer observed the event.

On assassination weapons, Basson said the SADF chief had heard that such devices were in use internationally, and ordered him to investigate whether they could be manufactured by the SADF.

He said a Mr Q was placed at his disposal for this purpose and, working from home, Mr Q produced a range of "applicators" -- screwdrivers, umbrellas and walking sticks with a variety of loading mechanisms.

He said he knew of no use by the SADF of such devices, but would have had no moral qualms about their use by an operator on a foreign mission.

He said that substances that could be used as effective lethal weapons were certainly available -- both Delta G and RRL made toxins that could cause death "within minutes

Cyanide too was available, Basson said. He even delivered a batch of cyanide capsules to Special Forces. Cyanide, he said, was far easier to administer and far more effective as a lethal substance than Scoline or Tubarine. It was far quicker acting. Given Scoline, for example, a victim could remain alive, though suffocating, for six to nine minutes, he said.

'CBW Mafia'

Under cross-examination, Basson admitted that many of the people associated with Project Coast had been misled about the details of the Project. But the biggest deception, he said, was the 12-year campaign to hide the Project from such international intelligence agencies as the CIA [American] and M16 [British].

He said other European intelligence agencies -- including those of Russia and East Germany -- had also been deceived. He was sure that from 1982 to 1993, Project Coast was never compromised or identified by any intelligence agency in the world.

He said he had even withheld information from the South African National Intelligence Agency in accordance with his military orders.

Testifying about his information gathering, Basson said he used a direct approach, and that it was easy to deceive the Americans.

He told the court that he had first met the "CBW Mafia" in 1984, but he did not really get involved in their meetings until 1986.

He said the "CBW Mafia" saw him as a businessman, sanctions-buster and arms dealer, and he was gradually admitted to the inner circle.

The few meetings he attended in 1984, he said, convinced him that the group was extremely valuable. During 1984, he also met Russian, German and Chinese members of the group.

He said meetings were held at different venues each month. The first meeting he attended was at the Hotel Barolac, on Lake Zurich in Switzerland. He attended further meetings in 1986 in Dusseldorf (Germany) and Marbella (France).

He said he did not know what was in the demarche that the Americans and British had given President de Klerk, but in 1995 Britain and the US insisted they wanted to know from President Mandela what Project Coast had entailed. Basson said he felt Britain and America did not actually want the information to "end up in the hands of the ANC".

The Libyans

Regarding the Libyans, Basson said there had been joint projects, in which the Libyans and the East Germans were involved -- along with companies in Japan and elsewhere. He said the "only" Project Coast transaction in which the Libyans were directly involved was the purchase of BZ. Certain "cultures" in which peptides could be grown, however, had been supplied by the University of Tripoli.

Asked what he had to say about Libya's support for the ANC and SWAPO "terrorists" who were identified as the SADF's enemies at that time, Basson said the South African government had been identified as "one of the biggest terrorist organisations in the world", but that was not his problem.

Nelson Mandela

Basson said it was true that he told the National Intelligence Agency that he hoped to put Mandela and Col Gaddafi together. That business, he said, related to the Lockerbie plane crash, and from time to time, he (Basson) met with the Libyan foreign affairs minister on the same matter.

He said the SADF had played a role in getting a letter from Gaddafi to the British prime minister, John Major, visiting South Africa at the time, in which Gaddafi proposed that Mandela be appointed to mediate in the Lockerbie affair, and undertook to abide by any proposals Mandela might make in order to break the deadlock.

Basson said he was paid by the SADF throughout -- from the time he was dismissed, until he was re-appointed.

Cocaine for all

Asked about "Operation Banana" by the prosecution, Basson said that the operation was an "official sub-project" of Project Coast, which involved the smuggling of cocaine hidden among bananas from South America. The cocaine had been bought in Peru at a cost of $250,000 (R2m), and he (Basson) had orchestrated the deal from a base in El Paso, Texas.

He told the court that the cocaine was shipped with a consignment of bananas. The ship had docked in either Rotterdam or Antwerp, where the drugs were removed. The cocaine was transported to South Africa in a Jetstar, flying from Ostend (Belgium).

Basson said the cocaine was to be used to develop a piperidine derivative as an incapacitant, but the idea was never pursued.

"I did not have a permit for the importation of the cocaine, but Gen Neethling at the police forensic laboratory knew about it," he told the court. "Some of the cocaine was even tested for purity at the police forensic laboratory."

RELATED ARTICLE: Basson cooked for Mandela, ANC

The Pretoria High Court trying Wouter Basson was told that the former chemical and biological weapons expert had visited the home of former President Nelson Mandela several times in the 1990s and even made prawns for Mandela and other top ANC members.

Testifying before the court, Sol Pienaar, who said he was responsible for Mandela and other ANC officials' flight arrangements in the period after

Mandela's release from prison, revealed that he took Basson to Mandela's house.

He said he was convinced that Basson was an influential international businessman when he took him to Mandela's home and introduced him to the ANC inner circle.

Pienaar said he knew Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the ex-wife of Nelson's, and also used to be a friend of Mandela's present wife, Graca Machel. But his relationship with Basson soured because of the things Basson came out with.

Pienaar said he was introduced to Basson by a mutual business acquaintance, Grant Wentzel, in 1993. At that stage the Libyan government wanted to build a railway line and Pienaar tried to arrange for Transnet (under a future ANC government) to tender for the $10 billion contract.

Because of his ANC ties, Pienaar said he was closely watched by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and did not have contacts within the apartheid government, as the deal had to go through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A lunch meeting was set up with Basson, who was introduced to Pienaar as a businessman with international connections. Pienaar said Basson was very excited about the project. According to Pienaar, Basson told him that he knew Anton Moolman, then chairperson of Transnet, and had government contacts.

Pienaar said Basson agreed to set the ball rolling, so he (Pienaar) arranged a trip to Libya for Basson to meet with the Libyan minister of transport. He also introduced Basson to Yusef Murgham who worked at the Libyan embassy in Harare (Zimbabwe).

Pienaar was adamant in court that it was definitely Basson's first trip to Libya and also the first time that Basson had met Murgham.

But Basson told the court that he and Murgham -- who was "high up" in the Libyan government -- had been friends for a long time before that, and that Murgham had assisted him greatly in his efforts to set up South Africa's chemical and biological warfare programme.

Pienaar said he never suspected Basson's ties with the SADF. He had always detested the former apartheid government and would not even have talked to Basson if he had had an inkling of his real identity.

"I cannot understand why he did this to me. My relationship with him became an enormous embarrassment... Maybe I was just naive," he told the court.

It was only after a visit from an NIA agent, who wanted to know what his relationship was with Basson and why they went to Libya, that Pienaar said he became suspicious.

When he heard a radio report in 1994 that Basson was one of the top SADF members implicated in a range of crimes (including murder) in the report of Judge Pierre Steyn, he immediately drove to Basson's house.

He said Basson assured him that the report did not refer to him and that there were "many Wouter Bassons in the army".

"I believed him. I knew his wife and his son. I had great respect for them. He introduced me to a doctor, who eventually cured me of my kidney problem. He did not come across as an army man. He looked like a sophisticated businessman," Pienaar said.

He denied that he had travelled to Libya with Basson to collect money from the Libyan government for Winnie Mandela's criminal trial.

PW Botha

Under cross examination about his early days in the SADF, Basson said he was part of a medical team that accompanied people like former President P.W. Botha to the operational area [Namibia and elsewhere] in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Asked about his relationship with Botha, Basson said: "One did not have a good relationship with him. He had a good relationship with you when it suited him."

Basson also described his relationship with the former intelligence agent and self-confessed mass killer, Johan Theron, as that of colleagues and not friends. Theron was "a different kind of person", he said.

Basson also denied Theron's evidence before the court that he (Basson) on numerous occasions supplied Theron with deadly muscle relaxants and sleeping tablets used to pacify and murder hundreds of SWAPO detainees and South African's own troops who were regarded as a threat to national security.

Pusch Commey
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Title Annotation:abuses in counter-intelligence
Author:Commey, Pusch; Boateng, Osei
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:3677
Previous Article:How Tunisia won the war against terrorism.
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