The mother of the ‘Tembisa 10’ has broken her silence, saying that everything the Tsotetsi family said about her is not true.
“I’m hurting. Everything they [the Tsotetsi family] said about me is incorrect. They are unfair. They are doing things to abuse me,” Gosiame Sithole said in an interview on Tuesday night.
The interview was shared by Pretoria News editor, Piet Rampedi, who wrote the initial story that Sithole had given birth to “10 babies”, but then seemed to backtrack from earlier reports.
It was not clear how and where she granted Rampedi the interview.
Sithole, who did not appear to show signs of having given birth recently, kept her hands tucked in her brown puffer jacket as she spoke.
She broke her silence shortly after a statement by the Tsotetsi family, which stated that the father of the babies, Teboho Tsotetsi, had not been able to locate the mother and the babies.
As a result, the family believed there were no babies and they apologised for any inconvenience and embarrassment caused.
Sithole, however, disputed this.
She said she had spoken to Teboho Tsotetsi several times about how his family treated her.
“I feel that they never loved me, and I was forcing myself on them. They want to gain financially through my children (10 babies). I don’t know why they are after me.
I’m not going to do as they wish. Their wish will never happen. I will never make them happy,” she added.
Sithole claimed that the family wanted to become millionaires through her children. “They were expecting to be wealthy through donations. No one will force me to reveal where my (10 babies) are. I will reveal their location in my own time, and no one is going to force me to tell where they are,” she said.
Steve Biko Academic Hospital CEO, Dr Mathabo Mathebula, had earlier said that they were trying to offer support to Sithole.
This, after Sithole and her sister showed up at the Pretoria hospital on Saturday, looking for the 10 babies.
“She didn’t want to be admitted; she just wanted to see and take care of her children.”
The hospital agreed that she could come back on Monday, but she didn’t return.
“She didn’t show up, but we are still in contact with her. We want to give her and her children support. We are now looking at her as someone who needs help. We are just not sure what type of help.”
The story of the ‘Tembisa 10’ has seen many twists and turns since it was broken by the Pretoria News, which claimed the mother had broken a world record.
Various government departments, hospitals and social workers refuted the story in the past week.
The Gauteng social development department released a statement, stating that Sithole was not missing and it would not provide further updates until it was ready to do so.
Meanwhile, the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said it was outraged by the “complete collapse” of journalistic ethics and standards in the reporting by Independent Media.
“[Piet] Rampedi interviewed the couple, Gosiame Sithole and Teboho Tsotetsi, at their home in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni, a month before the story was published and uncritically reported their version of events about the birth, without verifying the facts with the hospital or doctors involved, as required by the Press Code of South Africa.
“The code states very clearly that journalists ‘must take care to report news truthfully, accurately and fairly’,” the body said.
Sanef said, despite the many gaps in the story, Rampedi and Independent Media doubled down and continued to report the story without the basic facts being confirmed or established.
Rampedi and the media group also did not provide the name of the hospital or the medical professionals involved.
“On 14 June, Rampedi and Independent Media, after sustained attempts by the rest of the country, the government and other journalists to verify the story, changed tack and started to blame Sithole, the woman, claiming she had disappeared and was not responding to messages from Tsotetsi, the alleged father.
“It is now clear that Rampedi never saw the babies or had proof of their birth, but solely relied on WhatsApp messages between Sithole and Tsotetsi to report as fact that they were born. This is reckless and irresponsible journalism of the highest order,” it said.
Sanef also said Rampedi purported to know which hospital Sithole and her babies were at, which has “now proved to be a lie”, but instead of admitting his lapse of basic journalistic ethics, Rampedi now appeared to be blaming Sithole.
“This entire episode ranks as one of the lowest points in the history of South African journalism. The failure of Rampedi and Independent Media to do basic fact-checking and verify grandiose statements before publication have undermined and damaged the entire journalistic profession,” the body added.
The forum has called on the management of Independent Media to urgently institute an independent inquiry, led by an expert in media ethics, to investigate how this story was investigated, reported and responded to by Rampedi and his colleagues.