Soon afterwards, she apparently gave birth to seven boys and three girls – five babies naturally, five via C-section. When the Pretoria News broke the story, it made world headlines. A South African woman had broken the record for having the most babies ever and for a few brief shining moments, the country dared to hope it could be true.
After all, in May, Halima Cisse of Mali gave birth to nine babies in a Morocco hospital – in this day and age, anything is possible, right? This could be the good news story we all needed.
Except it could not be proven and as the days passed, the story became more and more bizarre. Eventually even the family of Teboho Tsotetsi, the babies’ father, came forward to say that, until evidence emerged to suggest otherwise, “it’s in the interest of everyone to conclude that they [the babies] don’t exist”.
No one had seen the babies, not even Teboho, and he’d relied on information fed to him by Goisame, they said. To the family, it must be bewildering – thrust to the forefront of a story that gripped the public imagination like few others, trending on social media for days and involving a high-level government search for the “missing babies”.
In Thembisa, it’s all anyone can talk about. YOU spoke to several people to try to piece the puzzle together – yet much like the mysterious decuplets, it’s hard to form a picture of the woman behind a tale so complex and strange you couldn’t make it up. Or could you . . .
‘You guys are chasing a dead story,” Luvo Mthembu* says when we visit his home not far from the house on Difateng Street.
Luvo is Goisame’s former landlord and he tells us she rented a room in his backyard for just under a year.
“She presented herself as a widow and told us her husband was poisoned at work in 2015 or thereabouts. She has two boys, twins, who were four years old when she came here.”
In 2018, she had a relationship with Luvo’s cousin and allegedly gave birth to triplets – two boys and a girl – shortly before the relationship ended.
“She was very angry with all of us after that,” he says. “The triplets were born prematurely at Steve Biko hospital and stayed in hospital for about nine weeks.”
The triplets apparently live with family members in Soweto.
In April this year, Luvo heard Goisame was pregnant again. “It looked like she was having a rough time because she was no longer walking by herself. She was using crutches and her belly was very big, which made me believe it’s probably triplets again.”
He saw her twice while she was allegedly pregnant, he says – the first time inside a shop at the local plaza, the second sitting outside the Esangweni clinic.
Like everyone, he was surprised to hear the news of the Thembisa 10 and then incredulous when it turned out to be a hoax. “Like I said, you’re chasing a dead story. Those babies don’t exist.”
Sandra Mtolo* is a friend of the Tsotsetsi family and she too saw Goisame when she claimed to be pregnant. She met up with her in April when Goisame was walking to the local supermarket with the twins.
“I was shocked to see how big her stomach was. She told me she was expecting 10 kids. I was so surprised when she told me that.
“She told me she was tired of staying inside the house and that was why she was walking to the shops – to get some fresh air. She was walking with crutches and she said she didn’t care about all the stares she got from people.”
A hawker in the area, Martha Tlou*, says she’d often seen Goisame walking around “with her big stomach”. She’d catch an Uber not far from where Martha sold her wares and sometimes, she says, she’d be with her mother-in-law. “She was apparently going to the clinic. Her mother-in-law would turn back once Goisame got in the car.”
Lerato Mbele*, a caretaker at the block of flats where Goisame stayed until December last year, says Goisame left after allegedly failing to pay rent.
“I came back one day to find she’d packed up her stuff and left. We called her numerous times but our calls didn’t go through. She lived there with the twins. She said she had triplets too but I never saw them.”
Goisame, she adds, “is very dramatic”.
Sandra and Martha say when they heard the story about the decuplets, they were excited but didn’t expect the babies to be presented to the world until a certain time because of African custom.
“But we never expected that there were no babies at all,” Martha says. “I have never heard of anything like this.”
Matomakgole Mahlanga, an aunt of Goisame’s from Thembisa, says she hasn’t seen her niece since the drama began.
“All we can say is, God is in control. I think Goisame needs psychological and social support. As a family, we aren’t angry – we just believe she’s confused and disturbed.”
A source told EWN that Goisame was examined at Thembisa Hospital following the alleged birth of decuplets and she showed no sign of giving birth. “The medical evaluation has shown there was no pregnancy. It also shows there are no physical scars to indicate a recent C-section.”
Goisame has reportedly been taken for psychological evaluation by authorities, after she was fetched from a relative’s home in Midrand. Her twins are said to be in a place of safety.
*Real names withheld on interviewees’ request.