Tembisa 10: Gauteng govt to take legal action against Independent Media over accusations

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
The Gauteng provincial government has indicated that it it will be taking legal action against Independent Media group. (Picture: Lerato Maduna)
The Gauteng provincial government has indicated that it it will be taking legal action against Independent Media group. (Picture: Lerato Maduna)
  • The Gauteng government says it is taking legal action against the Independent Media group.
  • The national health department supports this move, saying the allegations were "damning and unsubstantiated".
  • Iqbal Survé detailed claims of a conspiracy, which involved human trafficking and cover-ups.

The Gauteng government has indicated it will be taking legal action against the Independent Media group over its "serious allegations made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials".

The media company made the allegations at a press conference in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The press conference was held to address questions about a story written in the Pretoria News about the mysterious Tembisa decuplets.

The Gauteng province has since instructed the State Attorney to institute legal action against the company.

Provincial spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said a senior counsel had been briefed, and court papers would be served on Independent Media in due course.

READ | Tembisa 10: 'Up to them what they do with the report', says advocate who led probe into alleged fake story

"The provincial government cannot stand by while serious allegations are made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials. These are women and men of integrity, who are working selflessly and honestly every day to save lives and, at times, even risking their own lives," Mhaga said.

The national health department backed the move, saying it was outraged by the "damning and unsubstantiated" allegations.

"We join the Gauteng Provincial Government in challenging anyone that believes that they have any shred of evidence pointing to unethical practice by any of our health care workers to lodge a formal complaint with the relevant public institutions such as the Office of Health Ombud, Public Protector, or to open a criminal case with the law enforcement agencies for investigation and prosecution," said national health spokesperson Foster Mohale.

"We have nothing, but praise for our frontline workers who work tirelessly, often in dangerous circumstances, to care for the people of this country."

An independent, external investigation found the Pretoria News was "reckless" to publish the story, penned by editor Piet Rampedi, which claimed that a Tembisa woman, Gosiame Sithole, had given birth to 10 babies.

The veracity of the story was widely questioned when several elements couldn't be proven, including where Sithole had given birth.

The father of the children admitted that he had not seen the babies and had relied on Sithole's account when he posed for cameras as the parent of newly-born decuplets.

The media company instituted several probes into the story regarding how it was handled. It included investigations internally by the editor, the office of Independent Media's press ombud, Independent Media's investigation division, and an independent external investigation, chaired by advocate Michael Donen.

Donen's report said the publication of the story was "reckless" and found that Rampedi had breached Independent Media's code of ethics. He recommended disciplinary action be taken against Rampedi.

However, Independent Media chairperson Iqbal Survé, who had previously backed his title editor, said Rampedi should be given a pass, despite the serious finding.

Survé said the story on the babies was a "feel good" article and not an investigative report. But, so far, neither man has yet answered why the basic tenets of journalism, including corroborating claims or asking for additional information to substantiate claims, were not followed.

Instead, Survé detailed claims of a conspiracy, which involved human trafficking, cover-ups and a doctor who operates under a pseudonym.

Survé provided very little, if any, evidence to substantiate the findings, rather promising that all would be revealed in a documentary series, which all his titles would carry.

The businessman made broad claims that government officials were part of a conspiracy to discredit Independent Media.

The accuracy of the story came into question after reports emerged that Sithole gave birth at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, which the hospital disputed.  

Survé claimed that Sithole had visited several hospitals in Gauteng, including at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

Netcare said on Wednesday that no patient with a multiple pregnancy of eight or more foetuses had ever been admitted at any of its hospitals, including Netcare Sunninghill Hospital.

"In addition to double-checking hospital records, management has verified with all the independent gynaecologists and obstetricians practising at the facility that none of their practices have consulted a patient or done a scan showing a multiple pregnancy of eight or more foetuses," said Jacques du Plessis, managing director of Netcare's hospital division.

Dr Mpho Pooe, an independent obstetrician and gynaecologist, was tasked with the examination of Sithole after her release from Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital.

According to Pooe, Sithole was unequivocally pregnant, and had undergone a caesarean-section recently. 

But Mhaga maintained on Wednesday that the doctors, who conducted various medical tests during her admission in June 2021, established that she did not give birth to any babies nor was she pregnant in recent times.

"Government is duty bound to protect the integrity of all government officials as well as that of public institutions," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
72% - 2910 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
28% - 1147 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.