SOUTH AFRICA: South African authorities say they are assessing the mental health of the woman who claimed she gave birth to 10 babies, a story that officials now say was a tall tale.
This emerged Tuesday even as the editor of Independent Media, the publication that broke the story, insisted the article published earlier this month was factual.
An official inquiry said on Tuesday that the claim was false.
Editor ePiet Rampedi, who built a reputation as an investigative journalist over the years, continues to give interviews on local radio stations defending his report that claimed Gosiame Sithole gave birth to 10 babies at a Pretoria Hospital on June 7.
But the Gauteng provincial government under which Pretoria falls has confirmed that no hospitals in the capital city have a record of decuplets being born.
The provincial government has also revealed that medical tests showed Ms Sithole had not been pregnant recently.
The local weekly Sunday Times has also reported that even the name of the woman in the Pretoria News’ front-page story was incorrect and that she was actually born in 1972, making her 48-years-old. The newspaper initially reported her age as 37.
A Gauteng government memorandum sent to Gauteng premier David Makhura also reportedly disclosed that the woman needed psychological counselling and had supposedly been suicidal.
Speaking to local radio stations on Friday morning, Mr Rampedi argued that he did not rely on hearsay in pursuing the story, as the woman’s family members and the babies’ supposed father, Teboho Tsotetsi, had confirmed to him that the woman was pregnant.
Mr Rampedi said Ms Sithole had also sent him pictures and her Google location from the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
The editor, however, could not say how he had verified that Ms Sithole was pregnant. But he said he had his own evidence that he “cannot share at the moment” that would back up his story.
On Thursday, Mr Rampedi claimed the reason for the alleged cover-up of the extraordinary births is that his numerous investigative articles over the years had made him a target of the powers that be, especially President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government.
“I stand by my story. Ms Sithole was pregnant and gave birth to 10 babies on June 7, 2021. It’s a fact,” he wrote on Independent Media’s online portal.
The ‘decuplets’ couple, Independent Media said, attended the same church as Mr Rampedi where he was introduced to them in December. It is alleged that in May he interviewed the couple, who said they were expecting eight babies – a photoshoot shows Ms Sithole looking heavily pregnant.
The supposed births of 10 babies was announced by Pretoria News on June 8, quoting Mr Tsotetsi as the source. He later said he had received text messages from his partner telling him about it, adding he was not allowed at the hospital because of Covid-19 restrictions.
Mr Rampedi also relied on WhatsApp messages – and did not get independent confirmation of the story from the hospital.
Several days after the mysterious births, the couple had a falling-out as Mr Tsotetsi reported his partner missing and asked people to stop donations. Ms Sithole, on the other hand, accused him of wanting to benefit financially from the babies.
Meanwhile, Mr Rampedi wrote a letter to the newspaper’s management apologising for “the reputational damage” the story had caused the group.
He said he should have treated it more like an investigative piece rather than a “feel-good story”.
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