Basson inquiry suffers setback in biological weapons program inquiry

Multiple setbacks for the inquiry into the conduct of Wouter Basson, the former head of apartheid's chemical and biological weapons program, could cause the inquiry to drag into 2013.

Freek Ellof, a retired judge and legal assessor involved in the inquiry, was hospitalized with pneumonia over the past weekend. Additionally, Daniel Knobel, a lieutenant-general and a former surgeon general, was unavailable to conclude his testimony after undergoing open heart surgery. Jannie Hugo, the professional conduct committee chairman for the Health Profession Council of South Africa, postponed the matter to December 6, Sowetan Live reports.

If Ellof is unable to continue as assessor, the committee and both legal teams would look for a new assessor, which could cause the case to be pushed to March.

During his testimony, Knobel told the committee in the 1980s, Basson was approached by the surgeon-general and the chief of the defense force to develop the capacity to defend against chemical and biological weapons. Knobel said that Basson was able to breach laboratories around the world to source important information for South Africa. Knobel was unable to conclude his testimony prior to his surgery, according to Sowetan Live.

Basson is charged with four counts of misconduct related to the forming of Delta G, a secret chemical warfare research laboratory. The laboratory allegedly created incapacitating drugs and teargas on a large scale. Basson pleaded not guilty to the charges. If found guilty, he would be removed from the roll of medical practitioners.