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The story of the Tembisa 10, as they became known in the South African media, has had readers guessing for months.
After Pretoria News and its editor, Piet Rampedi, published an article together with a photograph of what appeared to be a heavily pregnant mother spread like wildfire, doubt about their existence soon followed. Not a single journalist, medical doctor, nurse or hospital in the country could find the decuplets.
Mud-slinging ensued between the hospital and Rampedi and the public at large, most of which will not be rehashed in this article.
Below, we are exploring the known and documented cases to offer some clues into whether this phenomenon could be true.
Octuplets – the case of Nadya Suleman of California
In 2009, stories of the first octuplets – 8 babies delivered at a single birth – were reported in the USA. The reports roared across America and eventually worldwide as this was a very unusual case – much similar to South Africa’s uproar around the existence of the Tembisa 10.
The babies – six boys and two girls altogether – were conceived with the aid of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and delivered via a C-section. The babies were born nine weeks prematurely.
At the time of birth, Suleman was not the only mother with an octuplet. She was the second mother with eight babies at the time. There was only one caveat – Suleman’s babies survived their first week after birth and were the only octuplets to date to be able to do so.
This is crucial as not only are multiple births born prematurely, like in the case with Suleman, the survival rate also decreases considerably.
Nonuplets – born in Marocco
The other case that gripped the world was that of a Malian woman, Halima Cisse, 25, who delivered nine babies in a single birth in June this year.
Cisse reportedly delivered five daughters and four sons – again through C-section and at 30 weeks pregnant in a hospital in Marocco where she was transported by air ambulance after doctors thought she was carrying septuplets (7 babies).
It is now generally accepted in the media that Cisse holds the record for most babies delivered through a single birth, however this has not been corroborated by Guinness World Records, who requires strict documentation for verification purposes.
This brings us to some conclusions from the medical world:
- Twins and even triplets can happen, but usually this is unlikely for a woman to ovulate this many eggs. Octuplets and nonuplets are highly unlikely, yet it became a possibility.
- The case of living octuplets and nonuplets are so rare that there is only these case in a world population of more than 7,7 billion people.
- Through fertility treatment, it was possible for the mothers to ovulate more eggs during a process called super-ovulation.
- As we have seen, with super-ovulation comes the risk of multiple fetuses and therefore a danger to the life of the baby.
- Fertility experts monitor this ovulation process very carefully. The end goal is to deliver babies safely.
- Risks are also involved for the mother. These include extreme morning sickness, dangerous high levels of blood pressure as well as of course miscarriage.
Questions facing Independent Media as well as the reporter, Piet Rampedi:
The reporter of the Tembisa 10 story, Piet Rampedi, editor of Pretoria News, a newspaper in the stall of the Independent media group, defended the story.
What followed was somewhat bizarre events, including an “investigation” by Independent Media, in what professor Franz Krüger of Wits Journalism called a new low point for journalism.
“It is clear that the reporting failed to pass the most elementary test of journalism, as no attempt was made to verify the claim, and it has caused further damage to journalism. Critics . . . gleefully used the story to rubbish the media as a whole. Stories like this undoubtedly further undermine trust in journalism. Without trust, journalism can’t do its work of holding the powerful to account and enabling civic discussion.”
Read the full article here.
Indubitably, Independent Media and Rampedi needs to answer.
- Why did not a single hospital, including Steve Biko where she apparently gave birth, admit to the decuplets being born?
- Why did medical tests reportedly not show that the mother, Gosiame Sithole, was pregnant?
- Why did editor Piet Rampedi not demand to see – firsthand – the decuplets after birth if it was to be a world first? Why did he rely on WhatsApp messages and no independent sources to verify the information?
- Will Independent Media chair Iqbal Survé, together with Rampedi, offer an apology for inventing facts and creating a false narrative? What has happened to Survé’s promised R1 million to the family?
Until proven otherwise by means of objectively verified medical reports, the probability of the world first decuplets – delivered at single birth – is simply next to zero.