The year 2021: Missing imaginary babies, looting and bloody killers

Johannesburg- This was a year like no other, besides the novel Covid-19 variants, which kept scientists on their toes and caused global anxiety, it was also a year to remember for storytellers.

The “mysterious disappearance” of the so-called “Thembisa 10” bundles of joy turned into a public spectacle between the government and Independent Media, the media house that broke the story.

At the heart of the furore is Gosiame Thamara Sithole, 37, who claimed that in June she gave birth to decuplets, thereby breaking a Guinness World Record. Sithole would have overtaken a record held by Mali citizen Halima Cisse, who gave birth to nine babies in May.

Sithole’s story went viral and made international headline news with health officials scrambling to validate its authenticity. After a frantic search for the “missing babies”, the department of health in Gauteng confirmed that there were no medical records in any health facility proving the existence of the decuplets. In fact, the department released a report saying Sithole was never pregnant, alleging it was a figment of her imagination.

What should have been a feel-good story turned into a smear and mudsling crusade.

While journalist Piet Rampedi, who had penned the story, stuck to his guns, saying the whereabouts of the babies were being kept secret to target him personally, health officials were adamant that he should face consequences for misleading the public.

In October, Independent Media executive chairperson Iqbal Surve was unrepentant, alleging the births were concealed as part of a baby-trafficking syndicate involving health officials and the government. He also alleged that health facilities were the epicentre of trafficking, saying body parts were often used for stem cell harvesting, muthi and cosmetic surgery.

The July riots and the Phoenix Massacre

The streets of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal turned into a bloody brawl when throngs of people stormed and looted shops purportedly angry that former president Jacob Zuma had been arrested on charges that he had defied the state capture

The looting caused harm and crippled the economy. It also led to the death of more than 300 people. In Phoenix, a residential area under eThekwini metro, the looting gave birth to racial tensions between people of Indian descent and blacks, who were targeted by vigilante groups and killed despite not being involved in looting. About 33 black Africans lost their lives.

An IsiZulu phrase Azikhale also became a buzzword during the looting. Ngizwe Mchunu, a former SABC radio personality who popularized the phrase, was arrested on suspicion of being a key instigator behind the violent and deadly riots.

It later emerged that police coined the term “key instigators” as a cover-up in an attempt to exonerate senior politicians who are alleged to have been the masterminds.

The assassination of Babita Deokaran

The brutal killing of whistleblower Babita Deokaran, 53, in August sent shock waves. Skilled marksmen are alleged to have cornered Deokaran at her home in Winchester Hills, Johannesburg, shooting her multiple times to death.

Preliminary investigations point to the fact that the assassins were hired to silence her because she had turned state witness on a multimillion-rand personal protective equipment corruption scandal involving senior politicians at the Gauteng department of health.

Deokaran was the chief director of financial accounting at the department.

Rosemary Ndlovu guilty of hiring hitmen to kill family members for insurance

Former Thembisa cop Rosemary Ndlovu was found guilty of masterminding the murders of her relatives for insurance payout.

Her actions led to the death of six family members including five of her siblings and a live-in partner.

Ndlovu, a heavy gambler, would take out a life policy for her family members and subsequently order a hit on them so that she could cash in on the insurance money.

A hitman blew the whistle when Ndlovu hired him to kill her sister and her sister’s five children. During her trial, the court heard that 28 people would have fallen victim to her brutality had she not been caught.

Murder of Fort Hare University student Nosicelo Mtebeni

The 23-year-old Mtebeni was brutally killed, mutilated and her body parts stuffed into a suitcase and left for days in a commune. Last month, Aluta Pasile, 25, Mtebeni’s alleged lover, was found guilty of carrying out the heinous act.

Alleged Limpopo serial killer arrested

Zimbabwean Themba Prince Willards Dube, 36, was arrested and slapped with several charges of kidnapping and murdering women in and around Polokwane. He was accused of killing seven women after luring them under the pretext of employment.

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