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25 Aug 2009 07:23
The mayor of 800m gold medallist Caster Semenya’s home town was among the first at OR Tambo International Airport to welcome her and the rest of the SA team home on Tuesday.
“We are so excited, we are among the people who nurtured her,” said Mamamako Mabaso, mayor of Aganang municipality in Limpopo.
The decision to subject Semenya to sex tests over claims she is a man has provoked outrage in South Africa.
Semenya and her male counterpart in the 800m, Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, cracked gold and long jumper Khotso Mokoena took silver at the International Amateur Athletics Federation’s World Athletics Championships in Berlin.
Mabaso said excitement in Semenya’s home village Masehlona, outside Polokwane, had reached fever pitch and a marquee had been erected near her parent’s house to accommodate the flood of visitors.
Mabaso said Semenya’s parents, Dorcus and Jacob, spent Monday night at a hotel near the airport and would be on hand to greet their 18-year-old daughter.
Also at the airport were residents of Limpopo’s Moletji Village, where Semenya grew up.
Semenya’s neighbour Pauline Mokwatedi lashed out at the media for their part in the gender controversy.
“It’s shocking for people to say she’s a boy.
How can a girl that we raised grow up to be a man?”
Mokwatedi (63) was among about 60 residents who had made their way to the airport.
Also present were about a dozen members of the Bela-Bela ANC Women’s League, who also said they were disappointed by the media reports about Semenya.
“They [the media and the International Association of Athletics Federations] have disrespected her.
Four members of the Naughty Boys Football Club left their home town of Seshego at midnight to be at the airport to greet her.
Thomas Madimba said: “She has done us proud,” adding that they considered Semenya a good defender from the days when she played soccer in her village.
With a large South African flag draped around his shoulders, Mthuthuzeli Mabaso, from Katlehong, said he had left home at 4.30am to be at the airport.
“I am proudly South African, I am proud of what they [the athletes] did to represent us.”
The team was expected to arrive shortly before 9am and the gathering crowd would be held at bay by a large group of policemen.
Meanwhile, North West Premier Maureen Modiselle was expected to take part in a picket outside the provincial legislature in Mmabatho at noon on Tuesday.
It was intended as an expression of outrage at the treatment Semenya had received at the hands of the IAAF, which had asked her to submit to a gender test.
Modiselle described Semenya as a “patriot of exceptional talent”. - Sapa
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