Fresh details of the government’s wild goose chase to track down the elusive Tembisa decuplets have emerged — and it turns out the “mother” is not 37 years old as reported, but 48.
The first names of the woman, as reported by the Pretoria News, are also incorrect, according to a leaked memo obtained by the Sunday Times.
Initially named as Gosiame Sithole, the woman’s identity document, a copy of which the Sunday Times has seen, shows different first names. It also indicates she was born in 1972.
The memo, dated June 18, 11 days after the supposed birth of the babies, was compiled by Thembeni Mhlongo, head of department in the Gauteng provincial government.
Addressed to premier David Makhura and his MECs of social development, health and community safety, it says the social development department first heard from Sithole in 2017 when she said she was “heavily pregnant” with triplets and asked for a social worker to help her.
She said she had two-year-old twins with a former partner who had died, and that her relationship with the father of her triplets had broken down.
A social worker provided “psychosocial support” and later that year Sithole told the social worker she had a job and that all five of her children were being cared for by an aunt in Soweto.
On June 7, Sithole again contacted the social worker on WhatsApp, saying she had met a new man and had given birth to decuplets at a private hospital in Pretoria at 7am that morning.
She reported that the babies were born prematurely at 29 weeks and that the “father” — identified by the Pretoria News as Teboho Tsotetsi — was in Cape Town “making business deals regarding the babies”.
The social worker went to the hospital to visit Sithole. But when she told Sithole she was outside, the memo states, “Sithole responded in an unprecedented manner. She was hysterical, crying, and reported that she is under a lot of pressure … She is having suicidal thoughts.
“The social worker probed further and asked who was pressurising her, and she said the pressures from the ‘media people’ handling the case of the Tsotetsi family.
“She alleged that they are accusing her of leaking information to the social worker and she must stop talking to her social worker,” Mhlongo’s report says.
“Sithole begged for counselling and even suggested that later she can sneak out of the hospital and request an Uber and meet with the social worker for counselling elsewhere. The social worker told her not to sneak out as she’s still in recovery and is in no position to roam around.”
When the social worker asked for her bed number and the name of her doctor, Sithole said she could not pronounce the surname of her doctor, “however, it is a white doctor”.
“Sithole said that she has found a sponsor for the delivery of her decuplets, and so far they have provided her and the babies with sufficient resources.”
The Tsotetsi family spokespeople listed on a statement previously issued by the family did not respond to requests for comment.
The Gauteng provincial government has instructed the state attorney to sue the Independent Media Group over the saga.
After the decuplets couldn’t be found, the editor of the Pretoria News, Piet Rampedi, accused the province and senior politicians of a cover-up and said there might have been medical negligence.
Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the social development department would work with the department of home affairs to check if the triplets — who have also never been found — were registered on its system. But he said no-one was searching for the 10 babies any longer.
“They don’t exist. She was not pregnant recently and did not give birth to one, two or even 10 babies. We are now focusing our attention on what support can be provided to Ms Sithole and her two children through the department of social development,” he said.
The memo states that “wild untested allegations” made by Independent Media Group caused serious reputational damage to the government both locally and abroad.
Meanwhile, the South African National Editors’ Forum welcomed an announcement by Independent Media chair Iqbal Survé that an independent panel would be established to investigate the handling of the story. “We believe [this] is the correct approach.”