Sport, Politics

ANC says it will call on IAAF for a serious talking-to about Semenya

By Branko Brkic 16 October 2009

The ANC isn't letting the Caster Semenya saga die. It's recently appointed task team says it wants to have words with the international authorities it believes failed to follow their own rules. While South African athletics authorities, of course, remain blameless.

The ANC has come out with guns blazing over Semenya’s human rights. It told journalists that the official Caster Semeneya Support Task Team has requested an urgent meeting with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to express its outrage over the manner in which the IAAF has handled the 800 metre gold medallist’s gender testing.

“There can’t be anyone in the world, who can’t see that Caster’s rights have been infringed,” said a visibly emotional ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu. “We will also make the point to the IAAF that Caster Semenya is an exceptional woman athlete and a world champ.”

Seems the ANC is putting Semenya’s human rights ahead of Leonard Chuene’s wrongs. It is also being more than a little forward, with a plan to advise the IAAF to declare Semenya’s gender verification tests null and void. The ANC says it feels the world athletics body did not adhere to its own stated gender verification policies and rules, as no other team or athlete laid down a challenge over Semenya’s sex, meaning there was no basis for the IAAF to start an investigation.

The Task Team panel, which included an elegantly attired but rather tired-looking Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the head of the ANC women’s league, vigorously nodded assent, until it was pointed out that IAAF rules and regulations on gender also stipulate that it is up to the home athletics federation (in this case Athletics South Africa, run by one Leonard Chuene) and its medical team to indicate whether an athlete might be so compromised.

The ANC said it was also pleased with the progress of a celebratory programme for Semenya, and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi (world Men’s 800 metre gold medallist) and Kgotso Mokoena (silver medallist in the Men’s long jump). But it has also taken the issue very personally, and is adopting an all too familiar tone.“Our view is if Caster was an athlete from a developed country, we would not be where we are – we are aggrieved,” said Mthembu.

Indeed, the party’s statement indicates that during the meeting with the IAAF (an obviously undoubted fact in the minds of the Task Team) the “ANC will advise the IAAF to publicly and unconditionally apologise to Caster Semenya and her family, to the South African President, the honourable Jacob Zuma, and the entire nation for the violation of Caster’s rights, the humiliation, injustice and pain she continues to suffer.”

For good effect, it went on to say that the mishandling of Semenya’s gender verification tests and their aftermath negatively affected the country and indeed, the entire leadership. Things cooled down thereafter, with panel member, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela saying: “If only the media could understand what has happened to Caster’s parents, especially her mother. She is so emotionally disturbed by what we have done – all of us – and I am not blaming the media in any way.”

Mandela said that Semenya’s mother thinks that she is a girl, and lives in an area (rural Limpopo) where no scientists are available to tell parents that there might be certain differences with their newborn. “We really wish we could all protect this child,” she said, adding that Semenya says she is very happy with herself and is ready to write her university exams.

When asked whether the ANC had brought politics into sports, Mthembu replied “If people had not brought politics into sports we would not be here.” He added: “I don’t think this is just a simple mistake.”

The party is sticking to its guns over Leonard Chuene, merely saying that those guilty of rights violations should be sanctioned. For the ANC, at least, that seems to be Western imperialists rather than anybody closer to home.

By Mark Allix

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