LISTEN | 'They're fighting for their lives,' says aunt as family strives to protect the Thembisa 10
SA's most famous babies — the “Thembisa 10" — are in an undisclosed hospital in Pretoria “fighting for their lives”.
This is according to the babies' aunt, who spoke to TimesLIVE on Wednesday evening. She asked not to be named.
When a reporter arrived at the family's home in a Thembisa township on Wednesday, the family was agitated as they had been inundated with calls and requests from the public and news organisations.
Here is what she had to say:
The fascination with the family came after the Pretoria News on Tuesday reported that a woman, identified as Gosiame Thamara Sithole, 37, had given birth to 10 children, setting a potential world record.
But immediate doubt was cast over the births, with the national and Gauteng governments saying they were unable to find any records of the births, even after calling the province's private and public hospitals.
Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina on Wednesday confirmed his office had met the family, and released a statement on behalf of the family confirming the births.
Speaking to TimesLIVE, the children's aunt said at the family home: “The babies were born and are still in incubators fighting for their lives. They came at 29 weeks; the mother is still weak. And as a black family we want to protect them. This is a sensitive issue.”
She said Sithole was in high spirits and was healing at the hospital.
At the moment, no pictures of the babies have been sent to the family as the mother cannot go into the NICU with a cellphone, she said.
“People are hunting them [the babies] down. They are even checking for their registrations with home affairs. We are hoping they make it.
“At the end of the day it’s our responsibility. Even though people are starting to doubt about the babies, they were born. She [the mother] is a bubbly and strong person, so she probably doesn’t want people seeing her in pain,” she said.
The babies' grandmother, identified in the family's statement as a “very happy” Mama Margaret Tsotetsi, sat in the kitchen with other children who were playing in the house.
The aunt said: “We are quite a big family already, but we manage. Five babies were born naturally and the other five through C-section. She [Sithole] had a difficult pregnancy at first; she left work around four months. She didn’t really have cravings or hectic pregnancy sickness. She just couldn’t stomach meat.”
Asked whether they have prepared a room for the decuplets, she said that due to their culture and given the sensitivity of the pregnancy, they could only do so after they arrive home.
“The mother stays with us because our granny has been looking after her. She will be here under our care. The number of babies has been changing during her pregnancy. She didn’t leave with a bag for the hospital because it wasn’t time yet. We were about to stock up for a bag.
“We speak to her through the phone, she sounds like she’s doing well. This had nothing to do with concoctions, this was just a miracle,” she said.
Due to the public and media frenzy around the births, she jokingly said they would name them after all media houses in the country.
IOL reported on Wednesday that the children's father, Tebogo Tsotetsi, had met Independent Media boss Iqbal Surve, who had pledged at least R1m to the family over a period of four years.
“I feel blessed and I am happy. I am happy for the support that I am getting. It is a very unique situation. They are premature, they are still incubated. Very small as you can think — 10 children in one womb that normally carries one baby.
“They are very small, so the sensitivity that goes into that, even the doctors, they don’t want to risk that,” he was quoted as saying.
Tsotetsi said that as a family they also want to give doctors the space and privacy to provide the babies with the care they need.
“People will see the babies at the right time,” he said.
UPDATE JUNE 18: Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said on Friday, June 18, that she is waiting for consolidated information before “going public” on the saga. Zulu told TimesLIVE she held a meeting with the provincial department of social development and the health department and “we have a few loose ends that needed to be sorted out” before briefing the public about what really happened. Both the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and the provincial health department have said they are unable to verify the births of the decuplets.