ANC sets up task team to support Semenya

The African National Congress (ANC) has established a task team to support athlete Caster Semenya and her family, it announced in Johannesburg on Monday.

The team is to be led by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and will include ANC national executive council (NEC) members Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, said spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

“It is the ANC’s view that Caster Semenya has been victimised and subjected to unnecessary public scrutiny, thus denying her rights, thereby undermining her dignity,” he said.

Mantashe will meet Semenya’s family at their home in Limpopo on Tuesday.

“This will enable the ANC to consult the family and get their views on the contents of the support we intend giving,” said Mthembu.

The task team will meet Semenya herself later on Tuesday at the University of Pretoria.

Semenya won the women’s 800m in a time of 1:55,45 in Berlin on August 19. However, the significant improvement in her time, her masculine physique and deep voice drew her gender into question.

Last month, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ordered gender tests on 18-year-old Semenya, but has refused to comment on reports that these showed the athlete has no ovaries or uterus, but has internal testes that produce testosterone.

The IAAF said it was reviewing the results and will decide in November whether Semenya can continue competing in women’s events.

Asked how it will deal with the formal release of the IAAF findings, Mthembu said the ANC will “cross that bridge when we come to it”.

A group of professionals will be assembled who will be able to assist Semenya and the party to deal with the issue at that time.

“Caster will not be alone to deal with that matter,” he said.

Mthembu said the professionals will include counsellors and any medical assistance arising from any of the gender tests Semenya had undergone. The professional help will be provided at no cost to Semenya.

President Jacob Zuma has accused the media of deeply invading Semenya’s privacy and asked why the doctor-patient privilege was not respected.

Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile, who also expressed disgust at the leaking of Semenya’s private records, said legal action would be taken if the IAAF banned Semenya from competing against women.

On September 19, Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene admitted to lying about not having any knowledge of gender tests conducted on Semenya without her knowledge in Pretoria in August, to protect her privacy.

He also admitted he had refused to accept the advice of ASA team doctor Harold Adams to withdraw Caster Semenya from the World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Semenya’s coach, Wilfred Daniels, resigned over these tests, claiming Semenya was duped into believing she was undergoing standard doping tests instead of gender tests

Chuene has already said he will not accept the IAAF results, charging that it did not follow the correct protocol.

Mthembu said on Monday that the support team will mobilise civil society, the government, corporate South Africa and the sport fraternity, not only in support of Semenya, but also to ascertain the extent of the prevalence of intersex people in the country and how this should be addressed.—Sapa

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