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Evidence indicates 'frail and vulnerable mother’ suffered abuse at hands of system

Obstetrician Dr Mpho Pooe, flanked by Advocate Michael Donan, SC, and Sekunjalo and Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé address the media on the outcomes of investigations into the decuplets saga.

Obstetrician Dr Mpho Pooe, flanked by Advocate Michael Donan, SC, and Sekunjalo and Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé address the media on the outcomes of investigations into the decuplets saga.

Published Oct 28, 2021


CAPE TOWN - Moliehi Maria Sithole, also known as Gosiame, was pregnant and delivered multiple babies on June 7, according to separate and independent reports by medical practitioner Dr Mpho Pooe, and renowned human rights lawyer advocate Michael Donen SC.

The presence of pregnancy was confirmed by Pooe, who carried out a full medical examination of Sithole after she was released from Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital last month.

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In his report finalised in August, Donen, who chaired an independent commission of inquiry into the birth of what has since become known as the “Tembisa 10”, found that a plethora of evidence suggested that Sithole was pregnant before June 7 this year.

Pooe made findings that are in stark contrast with those of the medical experts who allegedly examined Sithole after she was admitted to the Tembisa Hospital on June 18.

The Gauteng Department of Health had, however, invoked the Mental Health Act and detained Sithole.

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This flies in the face of a statement issued on June 23 by the Gauteng Provincial Government claiming that it had been established by unnamed medical experts that Sithole had not been pregnant and had not given birth to any babies in recent times.

“Various medical tests were conducted on her to determine her state of health. Initially, she was meant to be kept at the hospital for 72 hours, which lapsed on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Upon completing their preliminary examination on Monday, June 21, her doctors recommended that she be kept at the hospital for a further seven days for further observation, in accordance with the Mental Health Care Act,” read the statement released by provincial government spokesperson Thabo Masebe.

Independent Media has, during its investigations, sent numerous queries to the various relevant government departments, as well as to the implicated medical personnel. They said they stood by Masebe’s statement.

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However, Pooe on Wednesday said when she examined Sithole on October 1, her findings were “quite scary” as this was a woman who appeared to have been abused by the system.

“Unethical processes were practised by the medical health workers, which is surprising, and even people who we were supposed to trust didn’t protect her or advocate for her health.”

Pooe said Sithole has been portrayed as a liar and a mad person – somebody who faked a pregnancy.

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In her findings, Pooe also ruled out the possibility of Sithole potentially suffering from pseudocyesis. “You know you can have pseudocyesis, but pseudocyesis is one baby.”

Pseudocyesis, also known as a phantom pregnancy, is a condition in which the patient has all the signs and symptoms of pregnancy except for the confirmation of the presence of a foetus. The most common cause of pseudocyesis is the intense desire to be pregnant that the “mother” convinces herself she actually is.

“But never in history has it been found that a woman can pretend to have 10 babies or even a multiple pregnancy,” said Pooe.

“This woman went through the complications of a multiple pregnancy.”

Pooe said how Sithole was admitted to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital and how she was diagnosed as a person with psychiatric illnesses, raised questions on what procedures were followed.

“Why was she sent to Weskoppies? To have someone admitted you would have to follow the Mental Health Care Act, and there must be collateral history. Collateral history would be provided by the people close to her, such as members of her family, relatives, neighbours or someone who stays with her,” she said.

Everyone who had been in contact with Sithole over the past year has said, even in affidavits, that she was pregnant and there were no signs of any psychiatric illness.

“This is a woman with a history of multiple pregnancies – the twins, the triplets and then the decuplets – and can be classified as a gravida 4 para 16, which means she is a super ovulator. She also has a file number, which I have verified to be from Steve Biko Hospital. Sithole was pregnant and she gave birth, and has a recent Caesarean scar,” said Pooe.

Pooe said there were a lot of factors that showed there was something amiss in this case.

“Why can’t we pick up the files with her ID number with her names, or with her birth date? These findings show that there is … something big happening that must be investigated further. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) need to be involved if possible.”

Pooe said that for her it was apparent that not everything was done by the book, and it appears as though it was done according to “somebody” who was trying to hide something. The health workers involved should be reported to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA) and justice must prevail, she added.

In a separate report, Donen said Sithole was indeed pregnant before June 7 this year.

“Although a witness for the Departments of Health and Social Welfare, Gauteng, has stated on oath that medical reports show that Ms Sithole was not pregnant at that time, those reports have never been produced.

“Were they to be, the doctors who drafted them would have to be called to testify, and be cross-examined, and be believed, before the perceptions and conclusions of Ms Sithole’s husband, friends, church members, as well as Mr Rampedi – to the effect that Ms Sithole was heavily pregnant – could be dismissed out of hand, as the result of an ingenious deception perpetrated over many months and in many ways,” reads Donen’s report.

Both Pooe and Donen said they could not rule out the involvement of a baby-trafficking syndicate in the Sithole decuplets saga, given how the frail and vulnerable mother was treated by the doctors, social workers, government officials, politicians and the police.

Sithole was discharged from Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital on August 9, after she was illegally sent to the institution, and remains resolute in her assertion that she gave birth to 10 live babies.

Following Wednesday’s revelations, the Health Department in Gauteng threatened legal action against Independent Media over what it described as serious allegations made against nurses, doctors, hospital management and health officials.

"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," said the department in a statement.

| Independent Media Investigations

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