A company founded by a religious sect has claimed that a Pretoria woman is three months pregnant with South Africa's first cloned baby.
According to reports in Beeld, the announcement was made on Monday at the University of the Witwatersrand by Dr Brigitte Boisselier, president of an American cloning company, Clonaid.
Boisselier declined to identify the pregnant woman, saying only that the baby will be black and has been cloned from its mother. Boisselier also declined to reveal the cost of the cloning.
Clonaid was founded in 1997 by former French journalist Claude Vorilhon, leader of a religious sect, the Raelians. The sect believes that the earth was created by interplanetary visitors and views cloning as a step toward eternal life.
According to Boisselier, Clonaid has already successfully cloned 13 babies. She claims that the cloned babies are in Australia, Brazil, Spain, England, Italy and Hong Kong.
However, Clonaid is yet to present any scientific evidence to substantiate its claims. Boisselier said on Monday it would do so "when the time is ripe".
Boisselier allegedly produced a photograph of a child named Eve, who she claims to be Clonaid's first successful clone and is currently resident in Israel.
According to Boisselier, Eve was born in December 2002 to an American couple, followed by a second child, a boy, who was born to a Dutch lesbian couple.
She alleges that Clonaid was prepared to present scientific evidence to substantiate both cloned births.
"When Eve was born at the end of 2002, we were ready, but her parents declined out of fear of the resultant media attention," she said.
It is illegal to clone babies in most countries. Boisselier is awaiting to see if the United Nations will declare cloning a crime against humanity. She said she was busy negotiating with a country for protection if this was the case.
Boisselier said the Pretoria couple were treated outside the country's borders, so no laws were broken in South Africa.
According to its website, the company offers a range of cloning options, from cloning deceased family members to celebrities.
Clonaid claims that cloning a deceased person is not about exploiting people, it is rather a means of providing "an alternative option" to grief and despair.
"In a not too distant future, advanced cloning technologies will allow us to even recreate a deceased person in an adult body, with all his past experiences and memories, allowing mankind to enter the age of immortality," Clonaid claims.
When Clonaid announced the cloning of a human baby in Australia, the claim was dismissed as "the medical equivalent of a UFO story" by Australian officials.
Today scientists around the world believed Clonaid's announcements are a hoax aimed at making money, or garnering publicity for the Raelians.