South African 800m Olympic champion Caster Semenya on Thursday said she was “unquestionably a woman”, after the IAAF denied reports that it would argue that she should be classified as a biological male.
Semenya, 28, issued the statement ahead of a landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration (CAS) next week that will challenge a proposed rule by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF) aiming to restrict testosterone levels in female runners.
“Ms Semenya is unquestionably a woman. She is a heroine and an inspiration to many around the world,” her lawyers said in a statement.
“She asks that she be respected and treated as any other athlete.”
The rules would force so-called “hyperandrogenic” athletes or those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) to keep testosterone levels below a prescribed amount.
The rules were to have been instituted in November 2018 but have been put on ice pending next week’s hearings.
Supported by the South African Athletics Federation, the two-time Olympic champion in the 800m (2012, 2016) and three-time world champion (2009, 2011, 2017) has denounced the proposals.
“I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am,” she has said previously.
“She looks forward to responding to the IAAF at the upcoming CAS hearing,” Semenya’s legal team said, adding that “her genetic gift should be celebrated, not discriminated against”.
As well as Semenya, the silver and bronze medallists of the 800m at the Rio Olympics, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui, have also faced questions about their testosterone levels.
“The IAAF is not classifying any DSD athlete as male,” the IAAF said in a statement. “To preserve fair competition in the female category, it is necessary to require DSD athletes to reduce their testosterone down to female levels.”
A CAS spokesman confirmed to AFP on Thursday that the hearing is scheduled for next week in Lausanne from Monday to Friday with Semenya in attendance.
Police, soldiers deployed to prevent banned march in Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo city
Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district
Troops and police were out in force in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo on Monday to prevent a planned opposition march, days after brutally dispersing a similar banned protest in Harare.
Soldiers and armed police on horseback and in trucks were seen patrolling the central business district and most of the high-density suburbs.
Using a loudhailer, police warned people against joining the demonstration, called to protest deteriorating economic conditions.
One of the city’s usually busy areas, the precincts of Tredgold Magistrate Courts, where illegal forex changers ply their trade, was cordoned off by police.
Police have also set up checkpoints on most roads leading to the city centre.
Zimbabwean police banned the protests organised by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after they violently dispersed protesters who had defied a similar order in Harare on Friday.
The MDC is challenging the ban in court.
The protesters are angry over the country’s floundering economy and the jailing of a well-known government critic, tribal chief Felix Ndiweni.
The chief who is highly revered in the western Matabeleland region of the country, was last week jailed for 18 months for allegedly destroying a villager’s property.
Police fired teargas and beat up several demonstrators in Harare on Friday after they gathered in a square where the protest had originally been scheduled to start.
Friday’s protests were the first since President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to hike fuel prices by more than 100 per cent sparked nationwide demonstrations in January which left at least 17 people dead and several injured when soldiers opened fire.
Mnangagwa took over from long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, and then won disputed elections in July last year vowing to revive the economy.
But Zimbabweans say things have gone from bad to worse with shortages of bread, fuel, medicines and other goods and the skyrocketing cost of living.
According to the UN, about five million Zimbabweans, or a third of the population, are in need of food aid.
“We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe, the UN Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva on Friday.
“We urge the Government to find ways to engage with protesters, and to refrain from the use of violence”, it further stated.
South Africa’s new TB regimen cures drug-resistant cases
The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period
Four years ago, South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe, 38, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. A year ago, it developed into multi-drug resistant strain requiring painful injections and heaps of pills.
Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and started a second round. At the end of it, he still wasn’t cured.
Thanks to a new treatment – approved Wednesday by the US Food and Drug Administration – he is now cleared of the disease, has bounced back to work and has even resumed night-clubbing, something he has stopped four years ago.
“I was willing to beat TB and I’m living proof. I can move around… I can still go clubbing till the early hours,” said the dreadlocked designer at his home in Soweto township.
The announcement was especially welcomed in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest number of TB cases. Of the more than 1.6 million TB deaths recorded every year, more than 75,000 are in South Africa alone. In 2017, South Africa recorded more than 322,000 active TB cases.
The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period.
The three-drug regimen consists of bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid – collectively known as the BPaL regimen.
Pretomanid is the novel compound developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance and which received the FDA greenlight Wednesday.
The treatment regimen was trialled at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients and achieved a 90 per cent success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups.
With the treatment involving five pills of the three drugs daily taken over just six months – it makes easier to administer.
This compares to between 30 and 40 drugs that multiple-drug resistant TB patients take each day for up to two years.
“Usually and in many places in the world, the treatment for (multiple) … drug-resistant TB would take anything between 18 to 24 months,” said Pauline Howell, principal investigator of the clinical trial at Sizwe Tropical Disease Hospital in Johannesburg.
“This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful,” Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference.
The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of the world’s deadliest infectious disease, said Mel Spigelman, president and CEO of TB Alliance.
Last year, there were more than half a million drug-resistant TB cases in the world.
A chronic lung disease which is preventable and largely treatable if diagnosed in time, tuberculosis is the top infectious killer, causing over 1.6 million deaths each year.
More than 10 million cases are recorded every year. The disease has worsened as it has become increasingly resistant to available medicines.
TB Alliance started designing the trial in 2014.
“This is really groundbreaking result we have here,” said Folu Olugbosi, clinical director and head of the South African office of TB Alliance.
Patients are moving from a “truckload of pills” to cure the resistant strain with just three drugs and in just six months, Olugbosi said.
At the Sizwe hospital northeast of Johannesburg, a patient named Nxumalo arrived from Katlehong township for his regular post-treatment check-up to make sure he is still in the clear.
“With the old regimen, I would vomit,” said the 23-year-old unemployed man. “But with the one for research, it’s easier to take than 24 tablets.”
French-Lebanese billionaire in $2 billion debt scandal in Mozambique
Mozambique has started legal action against a French-Lebanese billionaire, Iskandar Safa, whose shipbuilding company is at the heart of a $2 billion debt scandal, officials said Friday.
A source at the attorney general’s office, in an emailed reply to AFP, confirmed “a case is ongoing” without giving details.
In London, an official at the High Court commercial division told AFP the Mozambican government had filed proceedings there against Safa.
The papers were submitted on July 31 and no date has been set yet for the hearing, the source said.
Safa is CEO of a giant Abu-Dhabi based shipbuilding company, Privinvest, which signed contracts with Mozambique state companies to supply ships and national maritime security.
The government’s legal moves came after testimony in a New York court last month by a former Credit Suisse banker, Andrew Pearse.
Safa, he said, had wired him “millions of dollars in unlawful kickbacks from loan proceeds and illegal payments” for help in securing loans from the bank.
Safa has denied any wrongdoing and according to his lawyer Jacqueline Laffont, he “strongly” disputes Pearse’s “baseless statements, obtained after several months of pressure from the US Department of Justice”.
The scandal is rooted in loans of $2 billion (1.8 billion euros), undertaken by the government between 2013 and 2015, to buy a tuna-fishing fleet and surveillance ships.
The government admitted it borrowed the money secretly, forcing international donors to suspend aid.
An independent audit found that a quarter of the loans had been unaccounted for, and another $750 million, used to buy equipment, had been over-invoiced.
‘Denies any wrongdoing’
The United States alleges at least $200 million was spent on bribes and kickbacks.
Several people have been arrested both in Mozambique and abroad.
They include Mozambique’s ex-finance minister, Manuel Chang, who is said to have received $12 million for allegedly signing off on debt guarantees.
Chang was arrested in South Africa last year on a US extradition request.
In an ongoing tussle over where he could stand trial, the Mozambican government this week said it would fight attempts to extradite him to the US after the South African government halted plans to send the minister to his home country.
When the hidden debt was revealed, Mozambique in the middle of a serious financial crisis.
The US Department of Justice has accused three former Credit Suisse workers of helping to create $2 billion in maritime projects as a front for the scam.
They were arrested in London in early January. In May one of them pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder funds over the case.
In emailed response for comment, Privinvest spokesman on the Mozambique case, Jeffrey Birnbaum, said the businessman did nothing wrong.
“Mr. Safa cannot comment on why the Mozambique government has sought to institute proceedings against him personally” until he has seen details of the claim.
“He does not accept that the English Court has jurisdiction over him, and in any event, denies any wrongdoing,” Birnbaum said.
Birnbaum said Privinvest delivered on its contractual commitments and took “extraordinary steps to help make the Mozambique projects succeed”, but the Mozambican entities “failed to hold up their end of the agreements”.
Privinvest had earlier this year instituted proceedings against the Mozambique government, which included “arbitration to recover losses and damages arising from breach of contract,” the spokesman said.
Safa’s lawyer Laffont told AFP in France that the jurisdiction of the London court is contested, adding neither him nor his company is facing criminal prosecution either in the US or in Mozambique.
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