Cape Town - Professor Tim Noakes is the subject of a vendetta by the Health Professions Council of South Africa, which wants to destroy his career, his lawyer has claimed.
This comes after the council issued a statement on Friday saying Noakes was guilty of unprofessional conduct.
The statement sent after conclusion of the council’s hearing this week on allegations Noakes gave “unconventional” and “dangerous” medical advice about breastfeeding on Twitter.
Hours later, however, after releasing the guilty verdict statement, the council issued a retraction and an apology, but by then the “verdict” had gone viral.
“The previous statement is retracted and we apologise for incorrectly stating that Prof Tim Noakes was found guilty by the professional conduct committee,” read the statement from the council.
The Noakes inquiry is, in fact, set to conclude in April .
Adam Pike, an attorney for Noakes, reacted angrily to the initial statement. “This is deliberate. It’s an intent to destroy the reputation of one of South Africa’s greatest scientists.
“It’s symptomatic of how the matter has been run. This is so irregular and so incorrect on so many levels.
“There’s a personal vendetta and I don’t know where it comes from.”
Pike also attacked what he said was the council’s lack of professionalism. “The council is a regulator of the profession. They have failed in their duty.”
The statutory body regulates health workers.
If it finds Noakes guilty, his licence could be revoked.
Weekend Argus on Friday contacted Noakes via his office, and his personal assistant, Megan Lofthouse, said the council wanted to discredit the professor. “I don’t know why they would even do that (send out the incorrect statement) unless it was to further incriminate him on a totally unjustified matter. It’s just totally incorrect.
“Our feeling is that the hearing went very well in our favour but obviously we can’t say yet what the committee will decide.”
Noakes referred all queries to Pike.
Council spokeswoman Daphney Chuma said the PR department was to blame for the “guilty” verdict on Friday. “The mistake is attributed to the PR department. It’s not our legal team.”
It appeared from Chuma’s comments the council had prepared the guilty verdict statement and was prepared to send it out when the hearing concludes.
“There was no communication breakdown. We sent a wrong statement. It was issued by myself,” said Chuma.
The initial statement opened with the line: “Professor Tim Noakes, a professor at the University of Cape Town, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct.
“This is after he provided unconventional advice on breastfeeding babies on social media which was not in accordance with the norms and standards of his profession.
“Professor Noakes testified and called all of his witnesses in defence of his case. The witnesses were cross-examined.”
The council said further it “now closed its case and there are no further witnesses to be called”.
The council said proceedings had been adjourned until April 4 and 5.
“The only outstanding issue is that of argument of the matter. The matter will then be argued before the (professional conduct) committee, which will then deliberate on the issue and come to a decision between April 6 to 7.
“A judgment/verdict on the matter will be issued on Friday, April 21, 2017 by the committee.”
Noakes was accused of giving “unconventional” and “dangerous” medical advice in February 2014 after a woman had asked him on social media whether he’d recommend a low-carb, high-fat diet to breast-feeding mothers.
Noakes said his answer - that the breast milk would be very healthy - had initially been deemed as potentially “deadly”.