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Caster Semenya takes gender rule to sports court

It’s the start of a week-long hearing that could define the rest of her career.

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Olympic 800 metres champion Caster Semenya of South Africa went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday to challenge proposed rules that could force her to lower her testosterone levels.

Semenya made no comment as she arrived at the court in Lausanne for the start of a week-long hearing that could define the rest of the 28-year-old’s career.

The South African government has said the rules set out by track and field’s governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), specifically target Semenya and has called them a “gross violation” of her human rights.

The controversial measures would force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to take drugs to lower their testosterone levels below a prescribed amount if they wish to continue competing.

The rules were to have been introduced last November but have been put on hold pending this week’s hearings. A judgement is expected at the end of March.

IAAF President Sebastian Coe, arriving at the court, said: “Today is a very, very important day.

“The regulations that we are introducing are there to protect the sanctity of fair and open competition.”

The chief advocate for Athletics South Africa, Norman Arendse, said Semenya would give evidence.

“The whole week is going to be important. Obviously the evidence will be evaluated and assessed at the end of the process this week. so today this is the start,” he told reporters.

The issue is highly emotive.

When British newspaper The Times reported last week that the IAAF would argue that Semenya should be classified as a biological male — a claim later denied by the IAAF — she hit back, saying she was “unquestionably a woman”.

In response to the report, the IAAF — stressing it was referring in general terms, not to Semenya in particular — denied it intended to classify any DSD athlete as male.

But in a statement, it added: “If a DSD athlete has testes and male levels of testosterone, they get the same increases in bone and muscle size and strength and increases in haemoglobin that a male gets when they go through puberty, which is what gives men such a performance advantage over women.

“Therefore, to preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels before they compete at international level.”

Navratilova support

Semenya is not the only athlete potentially affected — the silver and bronze medallists in the Rio Olympics 800m, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, have also faced questions about their testosterone levels.

But it is Semenya, who also won Olympic gold in 2012 and has three world titles to her name, who has led opposition to the proposed rules.

Matthieu Reeb, CAS Secretary General, said the case was highly unusual.

“It is unusual and unprecedented because we never had a such a case at CAS,” he said. “What is going to happen I am not able to say, but it is going to be important for sure.”

South Africa’s Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa argues that the rules are “discriminatory”.

“What’s at stake here is far more than the right to participate in a sport. Women’s bodies, their wellbeing, their ability to earn a livelihood, their very identity, their privacy and sense of safety and belonging in the world, are being questioned,” Xasa said on Friday.

On Sunday, tennis great Martina Navratilova threw her weight behind Semenya.

The 18-time Grand Slam singles winner said it was significant that the rules would only apply to female athletes competing in distances from 400m to a mile.

“Leaving out sprints and longer distances seems to me to be a clear case of discrimination by targeting Semenya,” Navratilova wrote in Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper.

“And can it be right to order athletes to take medication? What if the long-term effects proved harmful?… I hope she wins.”

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Southern Africa

Robert Mugabe: Family agrees to burial at Zimbabwe’s national monument

His family and President Emmerson Mnangagwa had disagreed over where and when he would be buried

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Robert Mugabe: Family agrees to burial at Zimbabwe's national monument

Former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s family and the government on Friday said he would be buried in about a month after they agreed to entomb him at a monument for national heroes in Harare.

Mugabe died in Singapore last week, aged 95, leaving Zimbabweans deeply divided over the legacy of a leader once lauded as an anti-colonial guerrilla hero, but whose 37-year iron-fisted rule ended in a coup in 2017. 

His family and President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe ally who turned against him, had been at odds over where and when he would be buried after his body returned home on Wednesday from Singapore.

READ: Zimbabwe’s ex-president, Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

On Friday, they agreed he would be buried at the National Heroes Acre, but the final ceremony will only take place in 30 days after a new mausoleum is built for Mugabe.

Robert Mugabe: Family agrees to burial at Zimbabwe's national monument
Members of the Zimbabwe Presidential Guard stand next to a military ceremonial casket carriage at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in Harare after the arrival of the body of former President Robert Mugabe. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

“The government, the chiefs, the traditional leaders went to the Heroes Acre they showed each other where President Mugabe is going to be buried and that place will take about 30 days to complete,” his nephew Leo Mugabe said.

Mnangagwa confirmed the burial would only take place once a new mausoleum had been built there for the former leader.

Around a dozen African leaders and former presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s official state funeral on Saturday in Harare in a sports stadium.

Tensions had erupted when Mnangagwa’s government proposed a burial at the monument while the family said he would be buried at a private ceremony, possibly in his homestead of Kutama, in the Zvimba region, northwest of the capital.

Leo Mugabe said Mugabe’s body would go to Zvimba while the new tomb was built.

The former leader had been travelling to Singapore regularly for medical treatment but allies say his health deteriorated rapidly after his ouster.

Some of Mugabe’s relatives are still bitter over how he was removed from power, and the role Mnangagwa played in his ouster.

READ: Body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives Harare

Robert Mugabe: Family agrees to burial at Zimbabwe's national monument
Movement for Democratic Change party leader Nelson Chamisa (R), vice-president Tendai Biti (2ndR) and vice-Chairman Job Sikhala (2ndL) attend the lying in state of Zimbabwe’s late president Robert Mugabe at the Mugabe’s Blue Roof residency in Harare. (Photo by ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP)

Mugabe dismissed Mnangagwa as first vice president in 2017 — a move many perceived as a bid to position his wife Grace to succeed him after nearly four decades of autocratic rule.

Soon after, Mugabe was toppled by protesters and the army in what was seen as part of a power struggle within the ruling ZANU-PF party between pro-Mnangagwa factions and Mugabe loyalists siding with Grace.

He remained free in Zimbabwe with his family after he was forced from office.

People divided –

Zimbabweans have been split over the death of a man who some still praise for ending white-minority rule and widening access to health and education to the poor black majority.

But many Zimbabweans remember his tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement that forced millions to escape a country ravaged by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.

“We are happier now that he is gone. Why should I go to his funeral? I don’t have fuel,” said Constance, 52, a Harare housewife.

“We don’t want to hear anything about him anymore. He is the cause of our problems.”

Mugabe’s legacy is also marked by a crackdown known as Gukurahundi, which killed an estimated 20,000 alleged “dissidents”, and his violent seizure of white-owned farms that made him an international outcast.

READ: Zimbabwe’s former President Mugabe to be buried in his village

Mnangagwa himself is under pressure after promising a new post-Mugabe era of more investment and jobs after he came to power, with little success.

His government’s fuel price hike this year sparked protests which led to a crackdown on opposition and clashes in which soldiers opened fire killing 17 people.

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Protesters storm Johannesburg to demand crackdown on gender-based violence

More than 40,000 incidents of rape were reported to the police between April 2018 and March 2019

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Protesters storm Johannesburg to demand crackdown on gender-based violence
Women hold signs as they take part in a protest following the murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19 year-old university student that was raped and killed on August 24 in Cape Town which has caused a groundswell of anger and protest against violence against women, in front of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in Standton, Johannesburg, on September 13, 2019. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

With placards stating “Enough is enough”, hundreds of protesters marched in Johannesburg on Friday to protest at gender-based violence.

Demonstrations in South Africa have been mounting over the rising toll of murders, rapes and abuse of women and girls, and a sense of impunity and government failure that surrounds it.

“I deal with kids coming through my door complaining about rape,” said Tshego Modisane, a 27-year-old teacher from the township of Soweto.

“They say ‘I have been raped by my uncle, violated by my dad, my step-dad,'” she told reporters, clutching a sign that read “YES #menaretrash”.

“All these kids are vulnerable girls who have nowhere else to go.”

Police crime figures released on Thursday showed that sexual offences including rape rose 4.6 per cent over a year.

Protesters storm Johannesburg to demand crackdown on gender-based violence
Women sing slogans in front of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange during a protest against the abuse of women in Johannesburg, September 13, 2019. – The murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old university student that was raped and killed on August 24, in Cape Town has caused a groundswell of anger and protest against violence against women. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

More than 40,000 incidents of rape were reported to the police between April 2018 and March 2019 — a figure likely to be far short of the true numbers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to review laws and crackdown on perpetrators last week, after hundreds of women assembled on the sidelines of an economic summit in Cape Town to draw attention to the issue.

But frustrated by the pace of change, some 500 demonstrators — mainly women — gathered again in Johannesburg to demand “action not words”.

“It will not be business as usual,” they chanted, as police watched on the sidelines.

“The law just has to be stricter. There should be no bail for rapists, it’s ridiculous,” said Natalie Pool, 36, adding that she remained sceptical about Ramaphosa’s promises.

‘Hush culture’ –

Blood-stained sheets and clothing were laid out in front of Johannesburg’s stock exchange in Sandton — one of the city’s most affluent areas — to call for more support from businesses and banks.

“Dear private sector, your silence is uncomfortable,” an organiser shouted into a megaphone, before inviting participants to observe a moment of silence for the latest victims.

South Africans have recently been shocked by the separate murders of three young women.

READ: Hundreds protest against gender violence in South Africa

A 19-year old university student and a 14-year old schoolgirl were killed in Cape Town earlier this month – the former raped and beaten to death on her way to a post office.

Boxing champion, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, 25, was allegedly shot dead by her partner, who was a police officer, last month.

Protesters storm Johannesburg to demand crackdown on gender-based violence
Demonstrators, mostly women, sit in front of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange during a protest against the abuse of women in Johannesburg, September 13, 2019. – The murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old university student that was raped and killed on August 24, in Cape Town has caused a groundswell of anger and protest against violence against women. (Photo by GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP)

Their stories triggered outcry and soul-searching in a country that often appears numb to murder and sexual violence.

“There was a whole lot of hush culture when it came to abuse, particularly around gender-based violence and sexual issues,” Eden Bohulu, 22, told reporters at the protest.

“These issues have always existed but I think it’s only now that we’ve decided to fight.”

Siboso Mohlwayo was among the minority of men attending the event.

A young astronomy student, he was protesting in support of his sister, now in high school, who was sexually assaulted as a child.

He was disappointed by the male turnout.

“All of them should have come out as it’s their responsibility as humans to fight,” he said, the word “Amandla” — Zulu for “power” – printed on his T-shirt.

Their absence, he said, “shows how much disappointment we can expect from our own nation.”

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Southern Africa

Zimbabwe’s former President Mugabe to be buried in his village

After his body arrived home, Mugabe’s final burial place became a point of dispute between his family and government

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Zimbabwe's former President Mugabe to be buried in his village
The body of late president Robert Mugabe lies in state at the Mugabe's residency in Harare on September 12, 2019. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe will be buried early next week in his village and not at a national monument for liberation heroes, his family said on Thursday.

The family of Mugabe, who died in Singapore last week, and Zimbabwe’s government have been at odds over whether he would be buried in his homestead in Kutama, northwest of Harare, or at the National Heroes Acre in the capital.

“His body will lie in state at Kutama on Sunday night.. followed by a private burial — either Monday or Tuesday — no National Heroes Acre. That’s the decision of the whole family,” his nephew Leo Mugabe told reporters.

Mugabe, whose autocratic rule ended in a military coup in 2017, died last week aged 95. His body was flown back from Singapore on Wednesday.

Zimbabweans have been split over the death of a leader once hailed for ending the former British colony Rhodesia of white-minority rule but who later purged his foes in a brutal crackdown. 

READ: Body of former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe arrives Harare

His tyrannical leadership and economic mismanagement forced millions to escape a country crippled by hyper-inflation and shortages of food, drugs and fuel.

After his body arrived home, though, Mugabe’s final burial place became a point of dispute between his family and government.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa had declared Mugabe a national hero after his death, indicating he should be buried at the national monument.

But the family said traditional chiefs in his homestead in the Zvimba region should decide where he should be buried.

Some family members are still bitter over his ouster, and the role his former ally Mnangagwa played. Mugabe fired Mnangagwa in 2017, in what many believed was an attempt to position his wife Grace to succeed him.

Mugabe was ousted by protesters and the military soon after.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, former Cuban leader Raul Castro and a dozen African presidents, including South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, are among those expected to attend Mugabe’s state funeral on Saturday in Harare.

READ: Zimbabwe’s ex-president, Robert Mugabe dies aged 95

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