The Gauteng government is planning to sue Pretoria News editor Piet Rampedi and Independent Media over the “Tembisa 10” saga.

“We want them to retract the unfortunate allegations made against the government,” said spokesperson Thabo Masebe.

“They alleged that there was a cover-up by the provincial government involving the premier, the MEC, and the chief executive of Steve Biko [Academic Hospital],” said Masebe. “We are demanding that they retract their statement and apologize.”

Masebe said, if the media company belonged to the Press Council, it would have taken that route instead.

However, because it does not, the Gauteng provincial government instructed the State Attorney to institute legal action against Rampedi and Independent Media.

The newspaper had reported as fact that Gosiame Sithole gave birth to decuplets on 7 June 2021. The government subsequently said none of the hospitals in the province, public and private had any record of such births at its facilities.

Rampedi has apologized to his colleagues for the damage his story on SA’s so-called “Thembisa 10” babies did to Independent Media’s reputation.

Two weeks ago, Rampedi broke the “story” of how Gosiame Sithole had “given birth to 10 babies at a Pretoria hospital”.

But almost immediately suspicions were raised as health officials in Gauteng said they were unable to verify or confirm the births, which would have been a world record.

In the interim, the publication and its online platform IOL doubled down on the story, continuing to profess its accuracy and, at one stage, saying that health authorities were part of a cover-up.

In a letter to Independent Media’s editor-in-chief Aneez Salie, Rampedi apologizes for how the story was handled but also accuses other media houses and journalists of scrutinizing the story simply because he wrote it and because it was published by an Independent group title.

“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, but all my colleagues in an awkward position, and under immense public pressure,” he added.

Rampedi continues that the story “provided detractors with an opportunity to cast aspersions on the professional integrity of not only myself but also my colleagues in the group”.

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