Basson claims his involvement in chemical warfare program was to save lives

Wouter Basson, the cardiologist facing charges for his conduct as the head of apartheid South Africa's chemical warfare research program, said on Monday that his involvement was an effort to save lives.

Basson spoke of the violence that occurred frequently in the country and how it encouraged him as a medical doctor to get involved. Basson is facing four charges of unethical and unprofessional conduct from when he was in charge of a top-secret facility called Delta G, Business Day reports.

"As a medical doctor, I could live with the idea that I was preventing injuries and death through my involvement in developing the substances," Basson said, according to Business Day.

Basson said that the video footage of violence at the time was shocking. Police said that they were unable to control such situations and by developing incapacitating substances to control the crowd, he could make a difference.

"Few people today remember that violence," Basson said, according to Business Day. "For good reasons we gloss over it, but it was the type of violence that even caused Archbishop Desmond Tutu to say, 'If it does not stop, I'll leave the country.'"

Basson said that the weapons did not advance to the pre-production level and they were not used on the ground. He admitted that mortars full of tear gas were given to rebel leader Jonas Savimbi in Angola, but that the goal was only to incapacitate people. In addition, he admitted to giving suicide cyanide capsules to the special forces commander at the time, but that it was up to the commander to make informed decisions on how and when to use them.