Independent Media accuses health department of ‘cover up’ in case of the ‘Thembisa 10’

16 June 2021 - 21:25 By TimesLIVE
Independent Media on Wednesday said it stuck by its stories about the birth of the 'Thembisa 10' babies. Stock photo.
Independent Media on Wednesday said it stuck by its stories about the birth of the 'Thembisa 10' babies. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/VITALINKA

Publication house Independent Media on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on Gauteng health officials, accusing them of a “cover up of mammoth proportions” in the ongoing saga of the “Thembisa 10” babies.

Last Tuesday Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi reported that Gosiame Sithole had given birth to the decuplets at an unnamed Pretoria hospital. However, question marks were raised almost immediately after government agencies, including the health department, said they could find no record of the babies being born at any of the province’s hospitals.

The doubts continued when, on Tuesday this week, the family of Teboho Tsotetsi, the father of the children, said they did not believe the babies were born “unless proven otherwise”.

The SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) was scathing about the reporting on the saga, saying: “This entire episode ranks as one of the lowest points in the history of SA journalism.”

However, Independent Media doubled-down on Wednesday, saying it stood by the stories published in their print and online titles. This after it initiated a “private investigation” into the saga.

“Instead of being a cause for celebration, it has resulted in an orchestrated campaign to discredit the story, the mother of the decuplets Ms Sithole, the Pretoria News’ editor Piet Rampedi, as well as Independent Media and its chairperson Dr Iqbal Survé, with claims the story is ‘fake news’. It is not and we stand by our story,” Independent Media said on Wednesday.

According to the media house, its investigation established the following:

  • Gosiame Thamara Sithole was admitted to Steve Biko Academic Hospital on June 7 2021.
  • She was admitted late in the morning and taken to the maternity ward.
  • At 6pm or thereabouts, four doctors and two nurses attended to Sithole.
  • Sithole gave birth to five babies via vaginal delivery. Doctors then proceeded to do a Caesarian section and delivered the remaining five babies.
  • Independent Media can confirm Sithole was at Steve Biko Academic Hospital from June 7 to June 11.
  • Independent Media can confirm Sithole was transferred to the lodgers’ section on Thursday. She was not provided with food except for bread and tea in the mornings. She was provided with no medical or psychological assistance.

“This information is corroborated by several independent sources, including staff at Steve Biko Academic Hospital,” the media organisation said, adding it would present its evidence and records to law enforcement officials if requested to do so.

It also claimed Sithole was not provided with adequate care, and called on the provincial health department to launch an investigation into the Steve Biko hospital, and into statements made by officials denying the births happened.

“We unwaveringly stand by Piet Rampedi and we stand by our story,” Independent Media 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.

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