The South African mom who claimed to have given birth to a record 10 babies was not even pregnant, a local government inquiry found.
The Gauteng Provincial Government said Wednesday it had “conducted a thorough check with all hospitals” in the area to “establish the veracity” of Gosiame Thamara Sithole’s claims that she had given birth to decuplets.
“None of the hospitals in the province, public and private, had any records of such births at their facilities,” the government said.
When officials finally reached Sithole, 37 — whose own husband could not contact her — she was taken in for a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation that was extended by a week, the officials said.
“It has now been established by medical practitioners that Ms Sithole did not give birth to any babies in recent times,” the statement revealed. “It has also been established that she was not pregnant in recent times.”
The government said it “instructed the State Attorney to institute legal action” against the paper that broke the story — the Pretoria News — over a follow-up story that suggested the “government was trying to cover up medical negligence” by holding Sithole.
“These allegations are false, unsubstantiated and only serve to tarnish the good reputation of Steve Biko Academic Hospital and the Gauteng Provincial Government,” the statement said.
The government said it was “deeply concerned by the conduct” of the paper, “particularly the Editor of the Pretoria News, Mr. Piet Rampedi,” who would also be part of the lawsuit.
Rampedi penned an apology to his employees declaring the “sadness and regret” over the debunked scoop — admitting his reporting was lax because he was friends with Sithole and trusted her word.
“I am sorry for the reputational damage the aftermath of the story has caused for the group, the company and my colleagues in general,” he wrote, according to an email seen by News24.
“To be blunt, the story provided detractors with an opportunity to cast aspersions on the professional integrity of not only myself, but also my colleagues in the group. For that, I am extremely sorry,” he reportedly wrote.
He said the couple refused to talk to other journalists because they were friends of his, saying that he felt there was “nothing to investigate.”
“They had no reason to lie to me about the pregnancy. For me, it was a story of celebration. Hence, I never demanded documentary proof of the pregnancy, such as scanners and clinic cards, for instance, as I would normally do with an investigative story,” he wrote, according to News24.
“However, judging by the sudden turn of events and the reaction from the government and our detractors, I was wrong,” he admitted.