Finally, after what’s been one of the most tragic episodes in the country’s sporting history, someone has taken action. And Leonard Chuene’s Pinocchio act has finally got him suspended.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on this one. Its statement on its website is a masterpiece of the legal art of making sure someone isn’t allowed past security for a while (Bobby Godsell, maybe you want to take notes here). Finally someone has got a good lawyer in to sort out the mess. And Sascoc isn’t mucking around. It’s kicked all the people possibly involved. And there’s lots of blame to go around.
The day’s drama started with a statement from Athletics South Africa, an apology to the nation, to Semenya, to the president; they did miss out the sun, the moon and the accompanying stars, but you get the drift. The statement looks suspiciously like a copy-and-paste job from the ANC’s Caster Semenya Task Team’s list of demands. ASA rolled over and asked the ANC to scratch it’s tummy, because it knew what was coming next.
And next was the statement from Sascoc. The suspensions, the need for a full investigation. The promise of further action. The kicker is the appointment of Ray Mali as an interim chairman. He gets the happy task of convening the elections of an interim committee (without the suspended individuals).
The nation celebrated. Sports people everywhere were thrilled, the chatrooms went berserk, and of course, talk radio lapped it up. Chuene’s reaction hasn’t been recorded. The ANC itself isn’t speaking. Curious that. It’s really been its spokesperson Jackson Mthembu who’s been leading the fight “on behalf of Caster”, and he didn’t want to talk about this. But he has been consistent in the view that the party believes that ASA “and everyone involved” should apologise to everyone else. That’s now happened.
So where to now? Well, Chuene may want to have another press conference, we could all do with a distraction from who’s keeping the lights on at the moment. But that’s unlikely. And Sascoc will no doubt send a lawyer to take notes. Come to think of it, as of tomorrow he could start selling raffle tickets for his legal fund.
But Chuene’s made of pretty strong stuff. And he’s spent the last few years building up his power base at ASA. Don’t forget that very few provincial bodies would take him on during the special meeting to discuss the Semenya issue. So now Mali has to step rather carefully.
Yesterday, Sascoc efficiently removed anyone who could run things the way he might like to, so his power base could erode pretty quickly. As a general rule in South African politics, once someone steps down, or is suspended, they don’t get to come back. Not always, but generally. The nation will be hoping that the rule sticks and Chuene is as good as gone.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)
Photo: Athletics South Africa (ASA) President Leonard Chuene smiles during the arrival of South Africa's teenage 800 metres world champion Caster Semenya at the O.R. Tambo international airport in Johanneburg, August 25, 2009. Chuene confirmed on Saturday runner Semenya was subjected to gender tests before her world championship victory and said he had lied about the tests to protect her privacy. Chuene said he denied the tests took place because athletics' world governing body, IAAF, had made no request to withdraw her from August's world championships in Berlin due to gender concerns. Picture taken August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko