By Marika Sboros
In its case against world-famous scientist Prof Tim Noakes, the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) is leaving no stone unturned. It also appears to believe it should leave no right unbreached as well.
That’s according to evidence presented yesterday during the February 2016 hearing. That evidence didn’t go down well with Pretoria advocate Joan Adams. Adams is chair of the HPCSA’s Professional Conduct Committee hearing the charge against Noakes.
Yesterday, she launched a scathing attack on a Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) committee for a flagrant breach of Noakes’s constitutional rights.
The charge against him follows a complaint Johannesburg dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom lodged with the HPCSA in February 2014. That was for a single tweet to a breastfeeding mother. In it, Noakes said that good first foods for infants are low-carb, high-fat (LCHF). In other words, Noakes suggested meat, dairy and vegetables.
Ironically, that’s the same advice that Strydom now gives. It’s also advice the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA) now gives. Strydom was ADSA president when she first complained to the HPCSA about Noakes. The hearing has heard that Strydom complained first in her personal capacity. The HPCSA later changed that to say ADSA had complained.
The hearing heard that University of the Witwatersrand bioethics professor Ames Dhai chaired the HPCSA Preliminary Inquiry Committee investigating Strydom’s complaint. The committee decided to charge Noakes. Dhai has consistently refused to provide reasons.
Adams said this breached Noakes’ constitutional rights under two acts.She referred to PAJA (Promotion of Administrative Justice Act) and PAIA (Protection of Access to Information Act).
She said her committee had a duty to try Noakes fairly. Adams ruled that the HPCSA registrar should be requested to provide him with the reasons for the decision of Dhai’s Preliminary Committee of Inquiry to charge him. She ruled that Noakes should receive all documentation related to that decision by 4pm Friday, February 12, 2016.
Adams said her committee did not have the power to order the HPCSA to extract the reasons from Dhai. However, it would be “a travesty of justice” if the HPCSA denied the request.
Noakes’ legal team sought the ruling from Adams on Monday after leading evidence pointing to irregularities. The evidence is contained in emailed correspondence between Dhai and her committee members. They failed to allow Noakes to see and respond to all the evidence the committee had before being charged, despite their legal obligation to do so.
Click here to read: NOAKES IN HIS OWN WORDS: ‘WHY I CHOOSE TO GO ON TRIAL’ – PART 1
Adams said the preliminary inquiry’s committee’s decision “defied logic”. She said it was “unfathomable” that the committee would have made an informed decision without “cogent reasons”. She dismissed HPCSA advocate Ajay Boopchand’s suggestion that the only and appropriate forum for Noakes to appeal to was the High Court.
She said the HPCSA legal department had resorted to “extreme measures” to force Dhai to reveal those reasons. HPCSA advocate Meshak Mapholisa had even threatened Dhai with a subpoena to force her to reveal the information.
Adams described this action as “brave” for someone in his position and commended Mapholisa for a “display of utmost integrity under circumstances that were trying and traumatic”.
Adams said the HPCSA’s own regulations required that its preliminary committee of inquiry give written reasons for decisions.
If a preliminary committee of inquiry decided a charge was warranted, Adams asked “why on earth would anyone think” that fair play was now “out the window”. The committee could not unilaterally decide to withold reasons for its decisions.
HPCSA regulations also gave accused persons the right to see all relevant information before being charged.
The hearing continues.