CAPE TOWN– An investigative report released on Wednesday by Independent Media during a press conference revealed the decuplets were born.
The media group presented key findings from some of the concurrent investigations it had instituted into the saga of the missing decuplets and the subsequent treatment of Sithole, including an investigation conducted by Advocate Michael Donen.
With him on the panel were Independent Media executive chairman Dr Iqbal Survé and Dr Mpho Pooe, who consulted and examined the mother of the decuplets.
Addressing the press, Survé said the media company had done an intensive investigation after the story broke earlier this year.
He said this story, which started out as a feel good story turned into a twisted tale of how a poverty stricken black woman was taken advantage of by police, doctors, nurses and social workers.
Consequently, Independent Media launched a detailed investigation – including the deployment of deep-cover operatives – to uncover a syndicate of human traffickers central to whom are several obstetricians and gynaecologists operating in the private sector and using state hospitals – such as Steve Biko, Tembisa and Dr George Mukhari – to further their aims.
“We have to tell the truth even though she may be implicated. The role of the media is not to protect the powerful but protect the vulnerable and expose those in power,” Survé said.
He said the media company was continuously threatened legally by government on separate occasions should it continue going forth with the story.
“We ignored all of them. We invited them to summons us,” Survé said.
He said some of the doctors involved have fled the country.
A Nigerian doctor who goes by various names to his patients and practice has been pointed to as the lead doctor who “showcased” Sithole to four other hospitals and his colleagues.
Initially, Sithole was said to have had six babies when she went for a scan in December 2020, however, in January/February another check-up revealed she had eight babies.
Survé said the investigation into the matter revealed that after that Sithole had visited the hospital 40 times.
She attended Steve Biko Academic Hospital every Thursday and private hospitals every Tuesday.
“At all times she was told she had eight babies. The doctor told her she would deliver her babies in a private hospital. Doctors told her they would cover her medical bills provided she gave the babies up for adoption,” Survé said.
He said records, audio and video recordings, documentation as well as texts exchanged on WhatsApp have all come to light.
Survé said on June 7, Sithole was induced at Steve Biko Academic Hospital but something happened and she and her Nigerian doctor were taken to a private hospital in Tembisa to another doctor.
It was at the private facility where she had a C-section done and something went “horribly wrong”.
“She was transported to Tembisa Hospital and there were no incubators. They had found eight babies in her womb and two in her fallopian tubes. Two babies died upon delivery due to hospital negligence.
“The babies and the mother were then transported via two ambulances to Steve Biko.
“The investigation found the CEO of Steve Biko and the Acting CEO of Tembisa Hospitals made the arrangements to move the babies.
“Steve Biko never had enough space, or incubators,” Survé said.
He said Sithole had seen the babies and was told by the paediatrician the babies were “fine and taken to a place of safety” where she would be able to see them on the Friday.
The babies were allegedly taken to Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital.
It was also revealed Sithole was unaware she had left Steve Biko Academic Hospital at all after she was induced.
“She was not aware two babies died. The mother described the babies as ‘very tiny and not looking like babies’, which is correct. She could also describe the epidural given to her – unless you’ve had it or work in the medical field you would not know – in colour, size and this was corroborated by nurses.
“Nurses who attended to this case were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements and should they talk they were threatened to have their licences revoked,” Survé said.
He said a nurse who took pictures of the babies allegedly had her phone smashed.
Survé also quoted the lead doctor who denied having a hand in the delivery: “Look, I was not responsible for the delivery. I was called in to clean up the mess, a mess other doctors made.”
After the mother was discharged from hospital and reported missing by her husband, who Survé stated she was married to by cultural law, she was arrested by police and told to be detained until the social worker came.
Sithole was subsequently booked into a psychiatric facility by the social worker and this, under the Mental Health Act has been deemed illegal, the report revealed.
Sithole is alleged to have been told by the hospital that if she continued stating she was pregnant or continued speaking about her babies she would remain in the facility forever.
Survé then revealed that the investigation had uncovered a massive human trafficking cover-up.
He stated the state hospital and others Sithole attended had been linked to a trafficking syndicate. This also implicated the Department of Home Affairs.
“Many mothers are told their babies have died. This trafficking has been found goes from Gauteng, to Mpumalanga, West Africa, Europe and the US.
“Fifty percent of the babies are adopted while the other 50% are used for muti, cosmetic surgeries and stem cells.
“This has been a very dangerous investigation.
“To government I say, it is okay to make mistakes. It is not okay to cover it up. Put systems in place to prevent human and baby trafficking. Suspend the Gauteng MEC of health and social development, those hospital CEOs. Look into the health department.
“We cannot be the epicentre for human and baby trafficking,” Survé said.
He said there was no doubt that the network of traffickers existed and stated the syndicate cost the country between R1 billion and R2bn annually.
Survé said there was no doubt this syndicate was running in other hospitals and provinces too.
“We did our homework and what we found was tragic. Our journalists were threatened by the syndicate as well as those who assisted in this investigation. The question the government has to answer now is what has happened to the babies? They should be taking responsibility for not having enough incubators.
“There should not have been four doctors but at least 24 doctors and nurses as well as 12 incubators ready for a procedure of this magnitude. There is no excuse for this kind of medical negligence,” Survé said.
He was adamant that Independent Media would not rest until all those involved were held accountable.