CSA acting president Willie Basson. Picture: Gallo Images
Dr Willie Basson is known as “Mr Transformation” in SA sport. Now his involvement in the chemical warfare programme of the apartheid regime has led to calls for him to step down.
In 1981, Basson was one of the first scientists to be recruited by Dr Wouter Basson (no relation to Willie Basson), known as “Dr Death”, for Project Coast, a chemical warfare facility that later turned out to be one of the apartheid government’s many tools to oppress black South Africans.
While some colleagues and officials have expressed shock at the news that Basson headed the chemical warfare machinery, he himself says he was only involved in the initial stages and had been unaware of the real nature of the project.
Western Province Cricket president, Beresford Williams, said Basson, who did not appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), was not pardoned for his involvement in the chemical weapons programme. “He should do the honourable thing and move away from the sport,” Williams said.
“Had we known before, certainly the Western Province Cricket Association would not have been party to Basson’s appointment at any level of administration. Based on his alleged past actions, how do we know if he’s part of the reason behind the lack of transformation in the sport?”
Basson said no offensive work was done in the two years he spent working for Project Coast. “I was a professor at the time and had done some research on the subject so I was approached to use my research to start a chemical warfare facility.”
Willie Basson said when he accepted the proposal, he was under the impression that the project was about defence work only.
“I started getting concerned so I did my work, which was mostly paperwork, and then I left after two years. The work there continued for many years after that. In that time there were always rumours about what was going on. When it all finally came out, I was disturbed, but I had no problem about my involvement defensive research,” he said.
Basson’s CV could not be obtained through the CSA, and eventually Basson himself was approached on Monday. He eventually submitted a copy to The New Age on Tuesday.
In it the only mention of Project Coast is: “Consultant and participant in strategic chemical/biological warfare defensive research programmes.”
Evidence before the TRC revealed that this project’s mission was, among others, to create a chemical substance to decrease black fertility and to stage cholera outbreaks in black communities.
A research report by Chandré Gould at the Centre for Conflict Resolution in 1998 stated that in 1981, Basson was approached by Wouter Basson, who is being investigated by the Health Professionals Council for his apartheid era activities, to initiate the chemical warfare facility. Project Coast had two companies: the biological facility, Roodeplaat Research Laboratories, and Delta G Scientific, which Willie Basson headed.
It is this link that has raised questions about his suitability to drive transformation in cricket.
However, a source who worked closely with Willie Basson for many years in cricket, said this part of his life was not known, especially in cricket circles.
“For ten years he’s been head of the transformation committee at CSA, now you wonder if he is the reason why cricket is not transforming,’ the source said.
Quest for an elusive CV
» The New Age tried to get Willie Basson’s CV from CSA since last Thursday with no luck.
» Google and LinkedIn do not appear to have Basson’s profile.
» Acting CSA CEO Jacques Faul gave instructions to assistant to CSA directors, Amanda Fleming, to attend to the request. She has yet to comply.
» We asked Basson for his CV on Monday. He sent a summary CV that carries a one-line reference to his work in the 1980s chemical warfare programme, Project Coast (incorporating the Delta G front company).
» Digital checks showed Basson’s CV attachment was modified one hour before it was given to The New Age this week