Noakes ‘guilty’ verdict devoid of all truth – the ‘judge’

Prof Tim Noakes

By Marika Sboros

The Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) released a press release today saying that it had found Prof Tim Noakes guilty of unprofessional conduct.

That’s not possible, of course, since the case against him has not yet concluded. The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) that the HPCSA set up to hear the charge has yet to hear closing argument from lawyers on both sides. The PCC will issue a ruling after that, on April 21, 2017.

PCC Chair and effectively “judge” in this case is Pretoria advocate Joan Adams. She has issued a tightly worded statement.

‘Devoid of all truth’

Advocate Joan Adams

Adams said tersely that the HPCSA’s press release was “devoid of all truth”. Noakes’ lawyer Adam Pike said much the same thing on radio.  Pike also announced that Noakes was considering legal action against the HPCSA.

Click here to read: Dietitians scurrying to cover their backs in Noakes trial?

Here’s what Adams had to say:

“A Professional Conduct Committee does not, in the ordinary course of events, issue press statements.

“However, after obtaining independent advice and also after discussing the matter with the learned legal assessor, I am, as Chairperson, obliged to issue same in these exceptional circumstances in the interests of justice.

“It has been brought to our attention that the HPCSA has issued a press report, as disclosed on News24 on 28 October 2016, indicating that Professor Tim Noakes has been found guilty by the Professional Conduct Committee.

Judgment day

“I wish to state the following:

  • (The press release) is devoid of all truth;
  • The PCC distances itself from such press report;
  • The PCC will deliberate in April 2017 after hearing argument; and
  • Judgment will be delivered on 21 April 2017 (after hearing argument on 4 and 5 April 2017)’.”

It is interesting to track how this factual misrepresentation unfolded with judicious help from the media. The HPCSA’s press release also makes no sense if read in its entirety. It was on its website for a short while then disappeared.

It starts off by saying that the HPCSA had found Noakes guilty of unprofessional conduct. The HPCSA gives the charge against him. Included in it is that he “provided unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social media which was not in accordance with the norms and standards of his profession”.

Towards the end, the release does get something right. It says that lawyers for both sides have yet to argue before the committee. And that the PCC will only hand down its judgment on April 21, 2017.

Homework lost

Thus, why the first paragraph says something completely different from the end anyone’s guess.

News media picked up the release, didn’t do their homework with some basic fact-checking. Reporters clearly didn’t read the whole release or understand it if they did. They simply ran with the “story”. I use the word, story, advisedly in this case as it was, after all, pure fiction.

Thereafter, headlines were speedily click-bait. News24 announced: Noakes guilty of unprofessional conduct. It later added: says HPCSA. You magazine and other media followed suit.

A few hours later, the HPCSA issued a retraction and apology, which News24 published. You magazine deleted the report from its site and on Twitter.

The damage was already done of course. And by that time, social media had spread the message of Noakes’ alleged “guilt” across the planet.

Twitter and Facebook went into overdrive with premature messages of consolation to Noakes. Banters declared outrage at the HPCSA for daring to find against him. And his critics and Twitter trolls were gleeful.

So is the HPCSA indulging in wishful thinking in its trial of  Noakes? Is it just plain incompetent – or worse? It will be interesting to find out exactly who wrote the HPCSA press release. And if the HPCSA holds anyone responsible.




  1. Personally I think this “mistake” can cost them dearly. They have basically said he is guilty no matter what the outcome. If the PCC now decides he is guilty, then everybody will say it the outcome was “rigged” because the HPCSA had found him guilty before the end of the trial. Not that I think anybody can find him guilty listening / reading up on this trial

    • You’ve hit nails on heads here, Christelle. I have no doubt this “mistake” will cost the Health Professions Council dearly, and so it should. Prof Tim Noakes has a reputation internationally that they have damaged. His A1 rating is a global acknowledgement of him and his work. Social media spread a guilty verdict internationally. The HPCSA has shot itself in both feet and brain, here, I’d say. It’s hard to see how it could possibly have been a “mistake”, given the high-profile nature of this case. However, a government task team investigating the HPCSA last year found it to be shot through with incompetence and corruption. Whatever the case, it is their “mistake”, and it has damaged a distinguished scientist’s reputation globally. I’d say that will cost them plenty in terms of financial restitution. His case was strong enough on the grounds of evidence alone. This stupidity feeds into theories of a concerted campaign to discredit him. It will be another nail in the coffin of a much-desired guilty verdict on the part of the dietitians and doctors who have gone after him, and a costly one for all involved. But again, that’s just IMHO.

  2. Absolutely despicable! They’re ready in hand with noose to hang him, before the verdict!! They should have to pay ALL the legal costs for this train wreck of deception and accusations against Prof Noakes! Makes me sick to my stomach to know there are such malice driven individuals at these highest levels of authority! <3 Noakes #noakesmoderndayhero

  3. The publication of the “guilt” of Prof Tim Noakes was in my opinion not a mistake.
    I think it was planned the moment the HPCSA heard the “Tim’s Angels” talking, they planned to break him down with the help of the uninformed media. I remember the death of Dr. Atkins and the rumours around that accident on April 8, 2003. Even now people think he died of his own diet.
    Read How Did Atkins Die? The Truth About Atkins’ Death by Laura Dolson. I am sure this is not the first “mistake” the food industry will make. Tim Noakes will face more of these “mistakes”. It doesn’t help that the HPCSA apologises. The damage is done.

  4. Just plain incompetent. You nailed it. Very much like the presidential race here in the U.S. Knuckleheads in charge the world over.

  5. I truly believe it is a dumb mistake by a non-commercial organisation that doesn’t really pay attention to their website. They apparently created the text 5 months ago and programmed it to be published after this part of the hearing and forgot about it. It’s common practice to have texts ready for publishing for each of the outcomes. A certain newspaper here in the Netherlands published an obituary one time for a guy that was still very much alive at that point.
    After they discovered the mistake I guess they tried to update the text to minimize damages. That was their second mistake. It shows the political incompetence of the organisation.

    • I’m not so sure it’s just a simple “dumb mistake”. There was never any suggestion at the February 2016 hearing session that a ruling would come down after this session. It’s odd that HPCSA didn’t even ask the chair of its own Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) who will be making the ruling next year. It would have to say that the PCC has ruled. Seems to me more mischief than real mistake. But that’s only my opinion after watching HPCSA at work throughout this trial.

  6. Calm down everyone. The HPCSA has just handed the Noakes team an almost priceless gift. The HPCSA have:

    1) Proven what most of us have always suspected, in that they have no regard for process or fairness to their members;
    2) Demonstrated their contempt for the Professional Conduct Committe and its Chairperson, Pretoria advocate Joan Adams;
    3) Demonstrated that they were quite unfit to initiate this action;
    4) Demonstrated that they are desperate having spent a fortune on a travesty;
    5) Confirmed that we have every right to hold them in contempt;
    6) Sent a very clear message to all medical practitioners (including dietitians and cardiologists) that they should refuse to be associated with the HPCSA;
    7) Confirmed their membership of the long and growing list of profoundly dysfunctional government entities;

    I would expect Professor Noakes’ team to make an absolute meal of this and bury the pro forma complainant under the huge pile of chin deep ordure that they (The HPCSA) have created.

    Finally, give a thought (no not really) to all those “experts” who have aligned themselves with the HPCSA in the debacle. They now stand utterly discredited. Schadenfreude MUCH.

  7. Marika – Why is this on hold until April? Why are the waiting over 5 months to hear arguments? Is there a reason for this? This whole trial just defies belief.

    • The long adjourments between hearings are ridiculous. Hearings should continue until they conclude. When this case finally ends, how long will it have taken? How can such a lengthy timescale be fair to Tim Noakes? How much will it have cost? Will the HPCSA be held to account for its handling of this needless case? Are public bodies accountable in South Africa?

      • Good points, Stephen. This case will have dragged on for more than three years before it resolves. Prof Noakes’ lawyers have often pointed out that justice delayed is justice denied, and there’s no denying the prejudice to him. Costs have already run in millions on both sides. I have it on very good authority that the HPCSA’s outside advocate presented a bill of around R1million for the February hearing session alone. Doubtless, his fee will be the same for the October hearing. There is no provision for an award on damages in disciplinary hearings of this nature if the ruling goes in Noakes’ favour, as I fully expect it to go. However, costs may be another matter. As far as accountability of public bodies in South Africa, my personal opinion: there isn’t much, especially as corruption is endemic and from the top down. But that’s only IMHO. What isn’t opinion is that a government task team investigating the HPCSA last year found it to be riddled with corruption, and its top three executives “unfit to hold office”.

        • “What isn’t opinion is that a government task team investigating the HPCSA last year found it to be riddled with corruption, and its top three executives “unfit to hold office”.” Well, they’ve certainly been demonstrating that in this hearing!

        • Sadly, your opinion of South African institutions seems to be widely shared. I’m assuming those found “unfit to hold office” are still in office? If so, it’s no wonder that South Africans have so little trust in their Government.

          This hearing has demonstrated the worst and best that the country has to offer. The blundering HPCSA and blinkered dietitians on one side and Tim Noakes and his legal team on the other.

      • Yikes! Three years to hear a complaint over a seven-word tweet and there have been no damages.
        They can’t even prove bad advice. Prof Tim Noakes in South Africa, and Dr Gary Fettke of Tasmania both are being hung out to dry by jealous people probably set up by Big Agri/Food.

  8. Was this fallacious statement released with malicious intent?

    Joan Adams should insist upon an independent enquiry.

    Somebody authorised this release – heads should roll.

    Follow the money!

  9. I didn’t think the HPCSA could look any worse, but I underestimated them. Not content with looking “just plain incompetent” around the world, they announce the verdict they’ve spent so much money trying to achieve. Where has that money come from?

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