Decuplets: Editor Piet Rampedi says sorry, but insists there was a pregnancy
'Pretoria News' editor Piet Rampedi, the man who published the news about a Tembisa woman who gave birth to 10 babies, has finally conceded that he could have handled the story better and that he should have used an investigative checklist for the story.
JOHANNESBURG - Weeks after publishing an exclusive article on the 'record breaking' birth of 10 babies to a Tembisa woman, Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi has written an apology to Independent Media group editor-in-chief Aneez Salie, saying that he could have handled the story better and that he should have used an investigative checklist.
In early June, South Africans and people across the world were fascinated after the Pretoria News reported that Gosiame Sithole and Tebogo Tsotetsi had become parents to 10 babies born at a private Pretoria hospital.
It was seen as a heartwarming, good news story during the grim COVID-19 pandemic, but it was not long before cracks in the story began to emerge, with no hospital or government officials able to confirm the birth of the 10 babies.
However, Rampedi insisted that the facts were legitimate and even published follow-up articles, lashing out at those who questioned the veracity of the news.
TSOTETSI FAMILY: THE BABIES DO NOT EXIST
After a week of confusion and conflicting messages, the family of the man reported to be the father of the babies stated that they had concluded that the 10 babies did not exist.
The Tsotetsi family said in a statement: “Tebogo confirmed that he has not seen the decuplets 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 their babies.
“We call on members of the public to stop donating money into any bank accounts for the decuplets. We appreciate the public interests and support for the decuplets, and with no proof of their existence, we firmly believe it’s in the interests of everyone to conclude that they do not exist, until proven otherwise. We will now shift our attention to finding Gosiame Sithole whilst praying for her safe return,” the family statement added.
It then emerged that one of the women's family members had officially reported her missing at a local police station.
The Social Development Department issued a brief statement saying that they were aware of Gosiame Sithole's whereabouts but did not reveal where she was. Eyewitness News revealed that Sithole was detained under the Mental Healthcare Act, which allowed for authorities to hold a person for at least 72 hours to do a psychiatric evaluation.
'NO SIGNS OF PREGNANCY'
Eyewitness News also reported that it had learnt that Sithole had shown no signs of being pregnant or delivering a baby in the past two weeks.
Sources close to the investigation into the matter told Eyewitness News that Sithole was medically examined by a medical team at the Tembisa Hospital on Gauteng’s East Rand.
“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,” a source said.
Even after that damning finding, Rampedi insisted that there was a pregnancy.
Now in the email letter written to his boss this week, Rampedi acknowledged the reputational damage the decuplets story had caused to colleagues and the entire group.
“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. I am fully aware that the story, and the general response, put all my colleagues in an awkward position, and under immense public pressure,” Rampedi said in the email.
While he admitted to not applying basic journalism to verify aspects of the story, he maintained that the woman had been pregnant and gave birth.
'I USED NO INVESTIGATIVE TOOL'
“Even though I stand by the fact that Sithole was pregnant, some aspects of the story could have been dealt with differently. Could I have handled the story far much better? Definitely! Especially the verification process. Quite honestly, I never treated the decuplets story as an investigation at all. I used no investigative tool or checklist,” Rampedi's email read.
“I trusted the sources, because I got to know them over a period of several months. I knew them and their families personally. Sithole’s pregnancy grew in size right before my eyes. I saw the woman’s health failing her. I saw her travelling to hospital for medical check-ups on several occasions. I trusted the couple,” Rampedi said without proving any doctor’s visit documents or sonar prior to the “birth” that had the whole world talking.