An official South African investigation has found false allegations that a woman, Josiama Sithole, gave birth to 10 twins earlier this month.
According to the local government, no hospital in Gauteng province had records of the birth of tens of twins.
The local government adds that medical examinations show that Sithole has not been pregnant recently.
The 37-year-old has been detained under the Mental Health Act, where she will remain under medical observation and receive support.
The local government statement did not elaborate on the reasons for this story being fabricated.
However, the Independent Online media group, which owns Pretoria News, which was the first to cover the story, has stuck to it.
The group went on to say that Sithole gave birth to 10 twins on June 7 at Beko University Hospital in the capital, Pretoria, adding that the staff there were not qualified to deal with the case.
The group accused the hospital and local health authorities of trying to cover up medical negligence.
“These allegations are false and baseless and only aim to discredit Steve Biko University Hospital and the Gauteng county local government,” the local government statement said.
The statement added that legal action will be taken against Pete Rambedy, editor-in-chief of Pretoria News.
Sithole, who has 6-year-old twins, lived with her partner in the working-class town of Thembesa in Gauteng, near Johannesburg.
According to the Pretoria News website, the two attended the same church as Rambidi. It was there that Sithole and her partner met Rambedy in December.
There are allegations that Rambidi interviewed the two partners who said they were expecting octuplets. Pictures taken at the time showed signs of severe pregnancy on Sithole.
Pretoria News, citing Sithole’s partner, Tiboho Tsutetsi, reported that Sithole had given birth to tents on June 8.
Tsotetsi later said he had received text messages from Sithole telling him the news, adding that the hospital was not allowing him admission due to coronavirus restrictions.
Rambidi also relied on messages via the WhatsApp platform, but he did not receive confirmation from independent sources within the hospital about this story.
The mayor at the time confirmed the birth of the ten twins, which prompted media outlets, including the BBC, to publish the news.
However, a government spokesman later said that the mayor had relied on the family’s words, but that no one had seen the births themselves.
Donations began pouring into the family, including one million rand ($70,000) from Iqbal Survi, president of the Independent Online Group.
But the story aroused suspicion after Pretoria News initially failed to disclose the name of the hospital where the twins were born, and after several hospitals in Gauteng province denied any connection.
Ten days after the allegations of childbearing, Pretoria News filed a lawsuit against the university hospital in Gauteng province.
The couple apparently quarreled with each other, with Tsottisi reporting her disappearance to the authorities and telling people to stop sending donations a week later.
In return, Sithole accused him of wanting to profit financially from the twins’ story, according to the Pretoria News.
Social workers were able to trace Sithole’s story and found out that she had been admitted to hospital for tests last Friday, according to local authorities in Gauteng province.
A leaked memo, seen by News24, claimed that Rambidy recently apologized to Independent Online for the “reputational damage” to the group due to the story, adding that he should have treated the story in the context of investigative journalism rather than as a “cheerful story”.