Brendan Seery
Deputy Editor
3 minute read
21 Jun 2021
5:35 am

Thembisa 10 saga: when words fail journalism

Brendan Seery

The fictional ‘Thembisa 10’ babies degenerated into a polarising narrative, where Piet Rampedi accuses anyone who questions it racist.

Advocate Michael Donen said 'Pretoria News' was reckless when it published the story saying Gosiame Sithole had given birth to 10 babies. Picture: Twitter/PietRampedi

Sometime in the early ’90s, in a fit of pique, the editor of The Star newspaper, Richard Steyn, ripped down a photograph from the newsroom notice board, which I had only pinned there a few hours earlier. It was from the Durban Daily News, accompanying a story about a fireman rescuing a huge Rottweiler from floods and carrying it to safety on his shoulders. I had scribbled on it: “She ain’t heavy, she’s my mother…” And that was what made Steyn see red – a reminder of one of the most embarrassing pieces of journalism in the history of the...