The wild saga of the South African woman who claims she gave birth to a record-setting 10 babies—who have yet to be seen publicly—has taken several more dramatic turns.
Health authorities took Gosiame Sithole into custody this week, reportedly for a psychiatric examination, prompting her attorney to threaten legal action to get her released.
Meanwhile, a South African media outlet is reporting an exam showed no signs that Sithole had been pregnant—as a top government minister is promising that the mystery will be solved by next week.
Finally, the newspaper that broke the maybe-true-maybe-not story claims a private investigation it launched has verified Sithole’s story and accuses the government of a “cover-up of mammoth proportions.”
The controversy began almost two weeks ago with Pretoria News’ bombshell exclusive that Sithole, 37, had delivered five babies vaginally and five by C-section—which would be the most live births ever.
As the story made headlines across the globe, Sithole’s account was soon called into question, with health authorities saying they had no record of such an event and the various hospitals that were supposedly involved also pleading ignorance.
Then, the reputed father of the brood, Tebogo Tsotetsi, said he does not believe the decuplets exist.
“The current uncertainties and public discourse 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,” his family said in a statement.
The doubts triggered criticism of Pretoria News, which announced it was reviewing its report. On Wednesday, parent company Independent Media doubled down and defended the original report—declaring that the newspaper was the victim of an “orchestrated campaign to discredit the story.”
It said that the followup investigation “has uncovered that the woman who made international headlines when she gave birth to 10 children was admitted to the government-owned hospital in Pretoria earlier that day and delivered her babies. It’s unclear what happened to the babies and what their state of health is.”
It went on to allege, without providing any evidence, that the hospital where Sithole says she gave birth had botched her care and was unprepared for the arrival of 10 babies. “There is an increasing likelihood that there has been extreme medical negligence,” the paper said, adding that it believes there has been “a cover-up of mammoth proportions.”
The next day, Sithole was taken to Tembisa Hospital for evaluation—against her will, according to her attorney, Refiloe Mokoena.
“She declined that she should be taken to the Tembisa Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation because she felt strongly that she is of sound mind,” the lawyer told IOL.
“She then instructed me to accompany her to the Tembisa Hospital. And when we arrived at the hospital, they took her straight to ward 14, the psychiatric ward. They told me that now she was in their custody, they would not be allowing the lawyers and the team of psychologists that she had requested to be present,” Mokoena said.
“When I left Tembisa Hospital, she made it clear that seeing that she is now being held against her will,” the lawyer added, explaining that she has been asked to launch legal proceedings.
According to Eyewitness News, while Sithole was at Tembisa Hospital, a medical team physically examined her. “The medical evaluation has shown that there was no pregnancy. It also shows that there are no physical scars to indicate a recent C-section,” the outlet quoted a source as saying.
Government officials have not confirmed that, but Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said on Friday that the probe is nearing an end.
“We have a few loose ends that needed to be sorted out,” Zulu said.
She would not confirm nor deny whether the decuplets actually exist and only added to the confusion with her response when asked about Independent Media’s claims of a cover-up.
“Yes, the allegations are wild, but there is no smoke without fire,” she said.