Pretoria - The lawyer of the mother who gave birth to decuplets said her client instructed her to apply for an urgent court interdict on Thursday to force the Gauteng Department of Social Development to release her.
Gosiame Sithole was detained at a police station for most of the day, before she was taken to Tembisa Hospital in Ekurhuleni for psychological evaluation, against her wishes.
Earlier in the day, her lawyer Refiloe Mokoena indicated that Sithole was picked up from a relative’s place at Rabie Ridge, in Midrand.
She was taken to the police station at Chloorkop in connection with the missing person inquiry opened by the family of her partner, Teboho Tsotetsi, last Thursday.
According to Mokoena, once at the police station, Sithole was denied access to any legal representation.
Police said they needed to hand her over to the Gauteng Department of Social Development, under the premise that arrangements were being made for her to see her older children.
Hours later, she was taken to Tembisa Hospital and Mokoena followed her.
Mokoena said when they arrived at the hospital she was denied access to her client and refused permission to arrange for a private psychologist to perform an independent assessment.
“When I left Tembisa Hospital, she made it very clear that she is now being held against her will, that I should please [file] an urgent court order for her to be released because they intend holding her for a period of 72 hours,” Mokoena said.
“She says the social workers have told her that her twins are at a place of safety but she doesn't know the location... She's now been admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Tembisa hospital against her will.”
Sithole has six-year-old twins and previously told the Pretoria News that her pregnancy was natural and she was not on fertility treatment. The whereabouts of her newborn babies and their state of health remain unknown.
Mokoena could not immediately confirm if the hospital received consent from Sithole's family to keep her.
According to the South African Police Service (SAPS), the detention of Sithole earlier on Thursday was a follow-up to a missing persons enquiry.
The SAPS said their instructions were to hand her over to the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD).
However, last Thursday the GDSD issued a statement rubbishing claims and reports that Sithole had gone missing following the birth of her decuplets.
“She has contacted the Gauteng Department of Social Development and the department will make an announcement in due course. The provincial SAPS has been informed,” the department said in a statement at the time.
In the light of this statement, Thursday’s actions of both the SAPS and the GDSD have fuelled speculation regarding the motives behind the detention of Sithole.
The latest developments came against the backdrop of Independent Media breaking the story last Tuesday that Sithole gave birth to a set of decuplets at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria on Monday, June 7.
Following the publication of the story, which captured domestic and global headlines, government departments – local and provincial – released contradictory statements.
Some statements confirmed the births while others denied that decuplets had been born in a Pretoria hospital.
Gauteng government spokesperson Thabo Masebe also released a statement that the Gauteng government had no confirmation of the birth and that the babies could not be found at any hospital, public or private.
The Gauteng Provincial government, the Health Department, as well as the CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital have all made statements on various platforms that there was no evidence of Sithole giving birth.
After initiating a private investigation into the birth of the 10 babies, Independent Media on Wednesday said that they discovered a possible cover-up by Gauteng Health authorities and called for an independent probe into the circumstances surrounding the birth of the decuplets.
Independent Media said their investigation had established that Sithole was admitted to Steve Biko Academic Hospital on Monday, June 7, 2021 and had given birth to five babies via vaginal delivery. Doctors then proceeded to do a Caesarian section and delivered the remaining five babies. She remained at Steve Biko hospital until Friday June 11.
Independent Media said they could confirm that Sithole was transferred to the lodgers’ section on Thursday. She was not provided with food except for bread and tea in the mornings. She was provided with no medical or psychological assistance.
“This information is corroborated by several independent sources, including staff at Steve Biko Academic Hospital,” the media organisation said.
“Considering our findings, Independent Media calls for an urgent investigation into the actions and statements of the CEO of Steve Biko Academic Hospital CEO Mathabo Mathebula; the Gauteng Provincial government, and the Gauteng Health MEC, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi with respect to the birth of the decuplets.”
On Thursday, efforts to obtain comment from provincial police spokesperson Kay Makhubele regarding Sithole being detained, whether a warrant of arrest had been issued and who instructed the arrest did not yield any results.
Makhubele referred all the questions to the Gauteng Department of Social Development.
The department in turn said to contact Gauteng Premier David Makhura's office which then indicated that the police were now handling the matter.
Further attempts to speak to Mathebula and Mokgethi were also unsuccessful.
Government communications director-general Phumla Williams when contacted on the latest developments on Thursday night said: “I will not say anything beyond the statement that was issued on Monday, June 7. I stand by that statement and I will not comment further”.
Following the breaking of the story last Tuesday, Williams said that the government was unable to verify the births of the decuplets at any of its facilities.
Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale declined to comment on the questions asked.