Mad Scientist

South Africa's mad scientists:Doctor testifies he designed germs to kill blacks.

CAPE TOWN (Reuters-AP) - The former South African government tried to develop a bacteria that would kill or make infertile only black people, the scientist who set up the apartheid regime's secret poison factory said yesterday. Dr. Daan Goosen told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that a major thrust at the secret laboratory had been the infertility project.

"We realized we might not achieve 100 per cent sterilization," he said. "It was not thought to get rid of all the black people, just to curb the birth rate." The truth commission has been listening to evidence this week about the South African government's secret biological and chemical weapons program >during the apartheid era. Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu said the testimony was the most shocking he has heard as chairman of the commission, which has taken statements from hundreds of >witnesses since 1995. "Here are people of high intelligence, coldly and clinically in white laboratory coats, working on things they know were meant to be instruments of destroying people," Tutu said in an interview. The infertility project was set in motion by a message from an unknown source in Europe claiming to have a bacteria that could selectively kill "pigmented" people, Goosen testified.

The lead was never pursued when officials got wind that it might be a trap. However, the work already done on the project at the Roodeplaat Research Laboratories had made good progress. No attempts were ever made to harm blacks as a result of the project. He said the laboratory had also made poisons ranging from cigarettes laced with anthrax to beer, orange juice, whiskey and chocolates containing a range of toxins. One witness testified this week that a shirt infused with poison - one of the tools developed by scientists - was given to a black activist who then lent it to a friend. The friend wore the shirt and died. "The key was that a toxin should not be detectable, but if it was detectable it must not be traceable to clandestine application,"

Goosen said. He acknowledged that he had been wrong to work on the projects, but blamed the hysterical political mood of the time for his misjudgment. "It was a time of conflict. Communism was coming. It was total onslaught," he said. Any researcher who broke ranks faced possible assassination, scientist Schalk van Rensburg said Wednesday.

"We had been told in no uncertain terms, if you let the side down you are dead," van Rensburg said. Goosen, was fired in 1989 after a falling out with Wouter Basson, who headed the program. He said scientists often were asked to design toxins for use against specific targets.

"We were very concerned that it should be used against the enemy, legitimate targets," Goosen said, adding the name of imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela had been discussed.

"I personally had discussions with Basson that if you had to release him (Mandela) it would be good if he had a disease so that he would not long be a problem," he said. Van Rensburg described plans to poison Mandela, before he became president, with thallium, which can cause brain damage. The plan was never carried out.

Patrick Goosen

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