Journalist who 'broke' story of South Africa decuplets apologises

Journalist who ‘broke’ the story about mother ‘giving birth to ten babies’ apologises for damaging his newspaper’s reputation after she was admitted to psychiatric ward

  • Piet Rampedi, the journalist and editor who published a story alleging a woman had given birth to ten babies, has been forced to issue an apology 
  • It comes after mother Gosiame Sithole was admitted to a psychiatric hospital 
  • Rampedi has all-but admitted the story is a fiction, though continue to insist Sithole ‘was pregnant and did give birth – just not to a world-record brood 
  • She continues to insist from inside hospital that the children are real, but has vowed ‘never’ to disclose their location 

A journalist and newspaper editor who ‘broke’ the story of a woman who claimed to have given birth to ten babies in South Africa has issued an apology after she was admitted to a psychiatric ward.

Piet Rampedi, the editor of Pretoria News, said he was ‘full of sadness and regret’ over a story he first ran two weeks ago claiming that mother Gosiame Sithole had given birth to a record-breaking brood which made headlines around the world.

But doubts were immediately raised about the tale after politicians and medics said they had no record of the birth and Pretoria News failed to produce any evidence that the children actually existed.

Now, Rampedi – who lost a previous job after failing to properly corroborate stories – has all-but admitted Sithole’s tale was a fiction, though he continues to insist that she ‘was pregnant and did give birth’ – just not to ten children. 

Sithole is currently being treated in a hospital near her Pretoria home, complaining that she is sane and is being held against her will. 

She continues to insist that the children are real, though has vowed ‘never’ to give up their location. 

Gosiame Sithole (left and right), a South African woman who claimed to have given birth to ten children, is now being treated at a psychiatric hospital after weeks in hiding 

Piet Rampedi, the newspaper editor and journalist who ran the story, has been forced to issue an apology – all-but admitting the tale was a fiction (pictured, Sithole while ‘pregnant’) 

In a letter to the editor-in-chief of the group which owns his newspaper, Rampedi wrote: ‘Let me start by stating from the onset that I stand by the fact that Gosiame Sithole was pregnant, and that she did give birth. I don’t doubt it and never have.

‘Be that as it may, 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 goes on to admit: ‘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. There was nothing to investigate, I thought.’

By the time the news had spread across the world, he said he was ‘blocked’ from collecting the evidence he needed to stand up his claims.

Even before this story, Rampedi was notorious within journalism circles in South Africa for having been part of a team which led investigations into a rogue unit within the tax service for a reputable South African newspaper.

But after several reports that alleged the unit was spying on people, it emerged the story was fictitious and had been fed to reporters by a politician looking to purge personnel from the tax service.

The Times was forced to issue a series of apologies and Rampedi – along with several others – lost his job, while insisting he was the victim of a cover-up.

Referencing that episode in his apology, he added: ‘It seems the reaction was more about how some of my mainstream media colleagues felt about me rather than the story itself. 

‘I doubt the reaction, and the level of sustained attacks on the group, would have been the same had the story been authored by someone else.’

Rampedi’s story finally fell apart after days of scrutiny when the supposed father of the children – Tebogo Tsotetsi – publicly voiced doubts about their existence.

Tsotetsi said he had not seen Sithole since she left home to give birth and had also not seen pictures of the children while asking police to investigate.

Sithole was subsequently detained by officers  at a relative’s house in the northern township of Rabie Ridge in the early hours of June 17. 

She was then transported to a police station in the nearby suburb of Chloorkop before being handed over to social workers and admitted to Tembisa Hospital’s psychiatric ward for a mental health assessment. 

Lawyer Refiloe Mokoena, who is representing Sithole, claimed she is being held against her will and called for her to be released.  

Rampedi was forced into the apology after weeks of media scrutiny that reached a peak when even Sithole’s boyfriend Tebogo Tsotetsi (right) admitted the children might not be real

The lawyer told reporters: ‘She declined that she should be taken to Tembisa Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation because she felt strongly that she is of sound mind.’ 

Since being admitted to the hospital’s psychiatric ward, Sithole has been subjected to ‘mental torture’ and ‘starvation’ and she has also been ‘handcuffed’, claims news site IOL. 

The lawyer added: ‘When I left Tembisa Hospital, she made it clear that seeing that she is now being held against her will, I should please move an urgent court order for her to be released.’

A protest against her internment was due to be held by relatives, friends and activists outside the hospital on Friday 18th June, though it was not reported if it went ahead.     

Dalian Mboweni, one of the march organisers, claimed that Ms Sithole said she was being ‘mistreated’ by hospital staff, reports Pindula News.

The activist said: ‘Sithole told us that she was being mistreated by staff as if she is mentally disturbed. She says she was being shouted at and… she was handcuffed. This is breaking her, we want her released because she is held against her will.’

The development comes after Ms Sithole, who had not been seen since the alleged birth, accused Tsotetsi of trying to become a ‘millionaire’ from the story.

She claimed that he was ‘expecting to be rich’ from the birth and was only concerned about the donations coming from people across the world. 

She also slammed Mr Tsotetsi for saying he did not believe the decuplets exist, accusing him of trying to ‘hurt’ and ‘ruin’ her.

The ‘mother’ had said she will continue to keep her children’s whereabouts secret, adding that ‘no-one can force her to’ disclose their location. 

Her comments come after Mr Tsotetsi said on Tuesday he had not seen Ms Sithole or the alleged children since her incredible claims which made headlines worldwide. 

His family released a statement which said they do not believe there are decuplets until it is proven otherwise.  

In videos shared by Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi on Tuesday night, Ms Sithole refuted Mr Tsotetsi and his family’s claims and constantly refers to ‘my babies’ without directly confirming the number, reports TimesLive. 

Ms Sithole, wearing a large brown coat over a patterned dress at an undisclosed location, said: ‘They are unfair because they are doing things and they are trying to hurt me. 

‘I speak to Tsotetsi now and then. I feel that they never loved me; I was just forced to be with him.’

Speaking about Mr Tsotetsi and his family’s statement, she said: ‘What they are doing shows me that they wanted to ruin something with my babies. 

‘That is why they are crying so much for them. The children are mine and no-one else’s. Why are they after me?

‘They were looking at the donations coming from people and wanting to be millionaires from the births. They were expecting to be rich. That is why I have [my babies] where they are.’  

Ms Sithole remained adamant that she would not disclose the location of her children and said ‘no-one is going to force me… I will do it on my own time’. 

She also questioned whether Mr Tsotetsi and his family were really sure in their claims that the decuplets do not exist. 

‘Are they sure with what they are saying? I want to know if they are sure of what they are saying. I will do what I want, and on my own time and not on their time.

‘I won’t do it for them, I will do it for my sake because they never loved me,’ she said.

Her comments come in response to a statement by Mr Tsotetsi’s family on Tuesday which read: ‘Tebogo confirmed he had not seen the deculplets and relied on his girlfriend who called to inform him of their birth.

‘He made several attempts to visit his girlfriend and the babies but she has failed to disclose her whereabouts and the condition of her babies.

‘The current uncertainties and public disclosure about the decuplets is of major concern to the family, especially in the absence of any proof of the decuplets’ existence other than telephonic and WhatsApp messages from the mother.’

The statement concluded with the family saying they believe there are no decuplets until it is proven otherwise as they apologised and appealed for help in finding Ms Sithole.

It comes after Mr Tsotetsi earlier asked the public to stop donating money to the alleged mother. 

Rampedi continues to insist that Sithole was pregnant and did give birth, just not to a world-record brood as she had claimed 


Women giving birth to multiple children is not uncommon, with cases of twins and triplets occurring relatively frequently with no scientific intervention.

But high-order multiple pregnancies – four children and above – are extremely rare naturally, and almost always occur as a result of fertility treatment.

That is because such treatment  – which includes IVF – is expensive and the chances of success are relatively slim.

This incentivises some unscrupulous medics to implant large numbers of fertilized eggs into a woman’s womb to increase the chances that one will develop into a foetus.

But in rare cases several of the embryos – or all of them – will start developing into foetuses, creating extreme cases of multiple pregnancy.

Halima Cisse, 25, from Timbuktu, spent two weeks in hospital in the Malian capital of Bamako before being flown to Morocco in March to give birth in a specialist hospital via cesarean section. Pictured: Ms Cisse arrives in Morocco

In theory there is no limit to how many children a woman can carry at once, though risks to the health of both mother and babies increases with each additional child.

Women with extreme multiple pregnancies are more likely to develop anaemia – a lack of iron in the blood that can damage the immune system and make other complications worse.

Cases of pre-eclampsia – a condition that can cause severe headaches and potentially-deadly fits – and gestational diabetes – high blood sugar that has been linked to post-natal depression – also increase in such cases.

Babies born of high-order multiple pregnancies are almost always delivered early, and tend to be both under-weight and malnourished.

Cases of infant mortality in the days and weeks after birth are also not uncommon. 

Nadya Suleman, or ‘Octomom’ made headlines in the United States on January 26, 2009, when she gave birth to six boys and two girls in California.

The largest set of babies to be born in one go and to survive past infancy is eight – born to ‘Octomum’ Natalie Suleman in California in 2009.

Ms Suleman, who already had six children through IVF, had 12 embryos leftover. Her doctor implanted all of them inside her womb at once.

Her case sparked a fierce debate over IVF regulation, with the fertility specialist who carried out the procedure stripped of his medical licence.   

Nine children were also born to Halima Cisse – a Malian woman – at a hospital in Morocco last month, where they remain under constant care.

While all five girls and four boys are said to be ‘doing fine’ and putting on weight, doctors say it will be at least another six weeks before they can consider sending them home.

Cisse is also still recovering from a torn artery she suffered during the birth, which almost caused her to bleed to death. 

He said in a message, according to Pretoria News: ‘I appreciate the financial support that we have been getting from members of the public, but I also would like to appeal to the public to stop making money deposits into our accounts until members of the community have seen the babies.’

According to South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, the Mediclinic Medforum Hospital in Pretori – where Ms Sithole is claimed to have told her partner she gave birth – said it had not treated her.

While the clinic said it was aware of the publicity around the birth of the babies, spokesperson Tertia Kruger told the newspaper following the Pretoria News report on Monday: ‘We can confirm that none of our facilities were involved in the obstetric care of this patient or her decuplets.’

Mr Tsotetsi is also quoted in the Pretoria News story as saying that Ms Sithole had been moved to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on Friday, but the Sunday Times reported that Gauteng health and provincial authorities were unable to trace her at any of their public or private health facilities.

CEO of the Hospital, Dr Mathabo Mathebula, told Radio 702 that Ms Sithole had arrived at the hospital saying she was the woman who had given birth to 10 babies, but said she was not at the hospital.

‘She’s not at the hospital as we speak. We don’t know the background … on Saturday afternoon she appeared, being accompanied by security, [and said] she wants to go to the NIU (neonatal inpatient unit) because she wants to see her babies.

‘She said she gave birth at Louis Pasteur and they told her they will transfer the babies to the hospital [Steve Biko],’ Mathebula told the radio station. 

Meanwhile, Mr Tsotetsi flew to Cape Town on Wednesday to accept a £50,000 donation for the children’s care while insisting the world will get to see them ‘at the right time’. 

Tsotetsi originally said his girlfriend gave birth to decuplets – seven boys and three girls – after a ‘natural’ 29-week pregnancy, even though such births are almost always the result of fertility treatments.

Since then a number of relatives have come forward to insist that the birth is genuine, even as local officials say they have no record of the delivery taking place at any hospital in Guateng state, where Pretoria is located.

No doctor has yet come forward to verify the delivery and no pictures of the infants have been published – ostensibly for cultural and religious reasons.

If the birth is confirmed as genuine, it would be a world record – coming just a month after a Malian woman, Halima Cisse, gave birth to nine children in Morocco.  

Last week, the infant’s aunt claimed that the ten babies were fighting for their lives at a hospital in South Africa.  

The aunt, who has not been publicly identified, said Ms Sithole is also recovering in the same Pretoria hospital after giving birth to five of the children naturally and another five by Caesarean section on Monday.

‘[The babies] are still in incubators fighting for their lives. They came at 29 weeks; the mother is still weak… This is a sensitive issue,’ the woman told TimesLIVE.  

Tsotetsi told Pretoria News last week  ‘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 claimed that five babies were born naturally and another five were delivered by c-section, saying a team of six doctors, two gynecologists and two nurses helped.

Tsotetsi said his partner was exhausted after the birth, but that she had managed to get out of bed and take a short walk on Wednesday.

‘She is doing very well.’ he added.

Tsotetsi was the first to break the news of the apparent birth to reporters last Monday, telling the Pretoria News that his girlfriend had given birth to seven boys and three girls.

‘I am happy. I am emotional. I can’t talk much,’ he said at the time.

The news quickly spread around the world, followed by a scramble for official information on the pregnancy and birth that has so-far proved elusive.

South African media have been at loggerheads over the story, with some outlets rushing to confirm the news while others quickly derided it. 

Government officials have gone so far as to confirm they are aware of the case and have been in contact with the family before, after Sithole gave birth to twins in 2016.

But Feziwe Ndwayana, a spokesman for the Department of Social Development, said yesterday that she cannot confirm the birth of 10 children because nobody has been in contact with Sithole recently.

Ms Ndwayana added that a social worker was to be sent to the family home last week to try and confirm the authenticity of the delivery. 

Pretoria News claims to have been in touch with the family for months over the pregnancy, but held on to the story until after the birth.

The newspaper claims it is not publishing all the details it has about the delivery because of ‘cultural and religious reasons’. 

Alongside news of the birth, which first appeared in Tuesday’s paper, the outlet also ran an interview with Sithole and Totetsi that they said was conducted several months ago.

At the time, Sithole believed she was pregnant with eight children – having initially been told she was carrying six before two more were discovered on a later scan.

It was only during the birth itself that the remaining two children were discovered, according to the newspaper.  

Sithole said she suffered through the complicated pregnancy, experiencing morning sickness early on followed later by pain in her leg.

Meanwhile Tsotetsi revealed that he initially could not believe his wife with pregnant with six children, thinking it was medically impossible.

‘But after I found out that these things do happen, and saw my wife’s medical records, I got excited. I can’t wait to have them in my arms,’ he said at the time.

The condition of the children following the birth was not made clear by Pretoria News, which was the first to report the case.

Children of such extreme multiple pregnancies are almost always born under-weight and can often be malnourished as the mother’s body struggles to provide nutrients for so many infants.

Halima Cisse (right) and husband Kader Arby (left) welcomed five girls and four boys on May 4 after a pregnancy that is thought to have been the result of fertility treatments

Cisse’s children are still being cared for at a specialist hospital in Morocco more than a month after their birth (pictured) after they were born premature and malnourished 

Cases of infant mortality are also not uncommon following large multiple births. 

Sithole’s case comes just a month after the world’s first live nonuplets were born in Morocco to Malian woman Halima Cisse.

Cisse, 25, from Timbuktu, was taken to hospital in the Malian capital of Bamako in March to be kept under observation before being flown to Morocco to be cared for at a specialist hospital after the country’s president intervened.

The children – five girls and four boys – were then delivered by a team of 10 doctors and 25 nurses via Caesarean on May 4, in a complicated operation that almost caused Cisse to die of blood loss. 

Doctors later revealed the babies were born significantly underweight and had ‘deficiencies in everything’, but are now in a stable condition.

As of last week, the children were still being cared for around the clock in Morocco with doctors saying their weight has increased significantly.

But medics said they will still need to be kept under observation for at least another six weeks before they can consider sending them home.

Cisse is thought to be staying nearby after coming out of intensive care, where she was recovering from a ruptured artery during the birth.

Ms Cisse’s pregnancy was just the third reported instance of nonuplets in history. 

The first recorded case of nonuplets came in Sydney in the 1970s, although sadly none of the babies survived, according to The Independent.

In March 1999, a set of nonuplets was born in Malaysia to a woman named Zurina Mat Saad, though none of them survived for more than six hours.

In January 2009, Nadya Suleman – dubbed Octomum – gave birth to octuplets including six boys and two girls at a hospital in California.

All survived the birth, and recently celebrated their 12th birthdays.

Ms Suleman is still the official world record holder for the largest live birth.

The babies were a result of IVF treatment, and were nine weeks premature when they were delivered via c-section.

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