Piet Rampedi Apologizes For 'Tembisa 10' Story

The Pretoria News Editor, Piet Rampedi, has penned an apology to his colleagues for the public scrutiny and reputational damage suffered by Independent Media after his newspaper published the "Tembisa 10" story.

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Pretoria News Editor, Piet Rampedi, sent an e-mail to Independent Media's Editor-in-Chief, Aneez Salie, in which he said he was full of "sadness and regret", but stood by the fact that Gosiame Sithole was pregnant and gave birth.

Dubbed "Tembisa 10" the story captured the imagination of many when it went viral and garnered local, as well as international, attention after the newspaper published the story as an exclusive claiming that a woman had given birth to ten babies and thus broke a world record.

The Department of Health maintained last week that it had no record of the delivery of the decuplets in Gueteng and Sithole was taken to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.

News24 further reports that Rampedi's e-mail to IOL's Editor-in-Chief addressing his colleagues reads as follows: 

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, put all my colleagues in an awkward position and under immense public pressure.

"To be blunt, 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. For that, I am extremely sorry. It was unfortunate. And I would like to apologise to you, my colleagues and the group," he continues.

Rampedi added that, although he stood by Sithole, he could have done more to verify some of the facts in the story.

"Even though I stand by the fact that Sithole was pregnant, some aspects of the story could have been dealt with differently. Could I have handled the story much better? Definitely! Especially the verification process. Quite honestly, I never treated the decuplets story as an investigation at all. I used no investigative tool or checklist," read the email.

Rampedi also said that the couple had no reason to lie to him since he knew them.

They had no reason to lie to me about the pregnancy. For me, it was a story of celebration. Hence, I never demanded documentary proof of the pregnancy, such as scanners and clinic cards, for instance, as I would normally do with an investigative story. There was nothing to investigate, I thought.

"However, judging by the sudden turn of events and the reaction from the government and our detractors, I was wrong. It was not necessarily a feel-good story. It was an investigative story and ought to have been treated as such," he added. 

Rampedi also admitted that he should have had the interview conducted by another reporter but the couple insisted that they were comfortable with him.

"The reality of the matter is that I did ask the couple whether they were open to the story being done by one of my reporters. They were not comfortable. They rejected the idea out of hand. They simply had trust issues around respect for their safety, culture and religion. They were paranoid, hence they took forever to agree to an interview," read the email. 

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