By Marika Sboros

How did a dietitian with a business to protect get the might of a South African state body to prosecute world-renowned scientist Prof Tim Noakes? That question is hanging in the ether.

The Health Profession’s Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has appealed its committee’s comprehensive not-guilty verdict for Noakes. The appeal concluded in Pretoria on February 23, 2018. Appeal Committee chair, advocate Justice Mogotsi, will rule before the end of March.

The HPCSA charged Noakes with unprofessional conduct for a single tweet on February 4, 2014. In it, he said that good first foods for infants are LCHF (low-carb, high-fat). Johannesburg dietitian Claire Julsing Strydom reported Noakes to the HPCSA. She claimed that the tweet claiming was potentially “life-threatening”.

The answer to how Strydom persuaded the HPCSA to go after Noakes on that basis is easy to find. Why she succeeded in doing so is more complex – but not impossible to work out. The answer lies partly in voluminous, unanswered evidence that the Appeal Committee must review. It shows that Strydom had help from academics at top South African universities: Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Witwatersrand. She also had help from academics at a minor institution, North-West (formerly Potchefstroom) University.

The evidence also suggests, as Noakes’s lawyers successfully argued in closing, that Strydom was just a vexatious, “disgruntled” dietitian. They also argued that the HPCSA had no sustainable case against him from the start.

But the answer also lies in evidence the Appeal Committee cannot review because Noakes’s instructing attorney, Adam Pike, only uncovered it after the not-guilty verdict. And increasingly, it lies in evidence of academic “mobsters” behind Strydom.