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South Africans await IAAF ruling on Caster Semenya

Semenya, who has dominated the 800m over the last decade, has remained largely silent through the court battle

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South African Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya celebrates after the 1.500m senior women final at the ASA Senior Championships at Germiston Athletics stadium

Fiercely loyal South African fans hope their Olympic champion Caster Semenya gets the all clear Wednesday when the outcome of a landmark hearing on proposed rules to restrict female athletes’ testosterone levels is delivered.

Her battle with the IAAF over the regulations has left some wondering why she has had to go through the mill to prove her athletics bona fides.

“They wanted her to prove that she is a woman first of all, and now that she’s proven that, they want to make her less of a woman. How does that even make sense?” sprinter Ashwin Classens asked.

Both on the track and in her legal battles, Caster Semenya inspires passionate devotion in South Africans.

For months, South African politicians, fellow athletes and supporters have reacted with fury as Semenya has been threatened by the new regulations that could scupper her career.

Proposed International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rules require “hyperandrogenic” athletes — those with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) — to lower their testosterone levels if they want to compete with women.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland is due to deliver its verdict on Wednesday after an initial hearing in February.

South Africa’s ministry of sport has been promoting Semenya on social media ahead of the verdict using the hashtag #NaturallySuperior and the slogan “Hands off Caster”.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa recently sent Semenya a powerful message of support, describing her as a “beacon of hope”.

“My daughter. This is only to remind you of your greatness; because you constantly remind us that nothing beats the enduring power of the human spirit,” he tweeted during the hearing in February.

“You may run alone on the track, but know now that you run with 57 million & more,” he added, referencing the population of South Africa.

South African lawmakers from across opposing parties wore black T-shirts during a debate in parliament in February carrying messages of support, including “We say NO to stigmatisation of women in sport” and “We oppose subtle hatred”.

‘Worst form of racism’

In the debate, National Freedom Party lawmaker Nhlanhlakayise Khubisa said “what is happening to Caster is the worst form of racism”.

“She is being crucified for being an excelling, resilient, unwavering and unmatched athlete — our creme de la creme,” he said.

The opposition Inkatha Freedom Party called on African athletes to boycott future IAAF events if the “unfair” rules were allowed to stand.

Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019, the 28 year-old from the country’s northern province of Limpopo has been breaking 800 metres records since she was 18 years old.

But the gender controversy has dogged her career.

“Semenya has taught us that sex isn’t always binary,” Time Magazine said, adding that regardless of the ruling, “Semenya will have already made a singular historical contribution to our understanding of biological sex.”

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa, who flew to Switzerland to be alongside Semenya at the February hearing, labelled the rules “discriminatory” and “racial”.

“This is tantamount to modernising barbarism,” Xasa said, defending a South African hero who has the rare ability to bridge racial divides in the fractured country.

Other sporting bodies such as Cricket South Africa have also stood behind Semenya and athletes are backing her.

“There’s no man that I see in her… I love her,” long-jump coach Maria Diamond told AFP.

Liezel Tron, a 17 year-old heptathlon athlete, said Semenya inspired her and others.

“I’ve seen her run and it is amazing… She deserves to run and compete with all of us.”

The IAAF says the rules are essential to preserve a level playing field and ensure that all female athletes can see “a path to success.”

Semenya, who has dominated the 800m over the last decade, has remained largely silent through the court battle while her legal team has condemned the IAAF’s tactics and policies.

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Ramaphosa challenges graft report as ‘irretrievably flawed’

He also said the allegations against him by the Public Protector “are serious… and should not be taken lightly”

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Ramaphosa challenges graft report as 'irretrievably flawed'
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a press conference at The Union Buildings on July 21, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. - Ramaphosa said on July 21 he will challenge in court a watchdog body's "fundamentally and irretrievably flawed" findings concerning a donation to his 2017 campaign for the ruling party presidency. (Photo by Phill Magakoe / AFP)

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has slammed as “fundamentally and irretrievably flawed” findings by a watchdog concerning a donation to his 2017 campaign to head the ruling party.

“After careful study, I have concluded that the report is fundamentally and irretrievably flawed,” Ramaphosa told reporters, adding that he has “decided to seek an urgent judicial review” of the findings concerning a controversial R500,000 donation.

The country’s Public Protector — or ombudswoman — Busisiwe Mkhwebane, said in an explosive report on Friday that Ramaphosa “deliberately misled the National Assembly” when he responded to an opposition question in parliament last November.

Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers that the payment was to his son Andile for consultancy work for Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

But he later said it was a donation towards his campaign to become African National Congress party leader — a hard-fought battle in which he beat ex-president Jacob Zuma’s chosen candidate.

He apologised, saying he had been misinformed when he first answered the question.

Despite the correction, Mkhwebane said Ramaphosa “indeed misled parliament” and that he should not have rushed to answer the question without having all the facts in hand.

Ramaphosa said the allegations against him by the Public Protector “are serious… and should not be taken lightly”.

But the report “contains numerous factual inaccuracies of a material nature”, he said.

“The findings are wrong in law, are irrational and, in some instances, exceed the scope of the powers of the Public Protector,” he said.

“Given these deficiencies… it is appropriate that the courts make a final and impartial determination on this matter.”

‘Irrational and wrong in law’ –

A statement from the Public Protector’s office said she had noted and welcomed the president’s decision to seek recourse through the courts.

She “is confident that her findings are factual, rooted in sound application of the law, will pass the rationality test and are a result of an independent and impartial process,” the statement added.

“She has no doubt that she exercised her powers and performed her functions without fear, favour or prejudice,” it said.

Ramaphosa, who is just two months into a new term since the May elections, said he wanted “an expedited review process so that we do not keep the country in limbo about these matters”.

He stressed that the decision to turn to the courts should not be seen as judging the competence of the ombudswoman or her motives “but is motivated instead by a determination that the law should be applied correctly and consistently”.

Critics of the ombudswoman accuse her of dabbling in ANC factional battles.

But Ramaphosa said he would not be distracted. 

“I want to continue doing the work that I was elected for, and indeed this matter should never be a distraction,” he said.

The radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters meanwhile called on Ramaphosa to recuse himself while the courts review the ombudswoman’s reports.

“He is conflicted and must be on leave until his name is cleared,” said the EFF in a statement.

Analysts suggest that the damning allegations could boost Ramaphosa’s opponents within the ANC, which is riven by in-fighting.

Ramaphosa replaced the graft-tainted Zuma on promises to fight corruption.

But the party of Nelson Mandela is now bitterly split between Zuma supporters and those backing Ramaphosa, who took the helm after Zuma became entangled in a series of corruption scandals.

The former president faces an inquiry into corruption during his nine-year rule.

On Friday Zuma withdrew from testifying in the inquiry, complaining of bias, but agreed to return at a future date.

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Public clinics in Zimbabwe save lives with TB, diabetes and HIV treatments

the pilot clinics have become lifesavers for the poor – but only if they happen to live near them.

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Blessing Chingwaru could barely walk without support when he arrived at the specialist Rutsanana clinic in Harare complaining of chest pains and fatigue.

Weighing a skeletal 37 kilogrammes (5.8 stone), the HIV-positive motor mechanic knew something was wrong.

He was immediately given a number of tests and told the bad news: He was also suffering from advanced-stage tuberculosis. Dual infection by HIV and TB is a notorious killer.

Blessing Chingwaru (R), 29, an HIV positive TB scratches his head as he sits during a medical consultation with nurse Angela Chikondo at Rutsanana Polyclinic in Glen Norah township, Harare, on June 24, 2019. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

“My health was deteriorating and I kept wondering why,” Chingwaru, 29, recalled at the clinic.

Within hours of the diagnosis, Chingwaru was given free treatment and nursing care.

In a country where more than a dozen people die each day from TB-related sicknesses, it was a rare example of efficient public healthcare.

The Rutsanana Polyclinic in Harare is one of 10 pilot clinics in the country offering free diagnosis and treatment for TB, diabetes and HIV.

The clinic, which opened in 2016, is staffed by 24 nurses and currently treats 120 TB patients. 

Among the million-plus people living with HIV in Zimbabwe, TB is the most common cause of death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

HIV-positive people, and others with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to contracting the infection.

After Chingwaru’s initial visit in February, doctors had feared for his life.

But following five months of careful treatment Chingwaru has gained 15 kilos.

“Everything I need, I get here,” said Chingwaru, forming fists with both hands to show off his regained strength.

Economic and financial challenges

In a country where public health services are faced with extreme challenges, containing the spread of TB has been a struggle.

Zimbabwe has been stuck in economic and financial crisis for a long time and many of its doctors are underpaid and under-equipped.

Although TB treatment is free, the annual number of TB infections in Zimbabwe remains among the highest in the world.

The contagious infection is usually found in the lungs and is caught by breathing in the bacteria from tiny droplets sneezed or coughed out. 

As HIV-positive people are so vulnerable to TB, the clinics have followed the advice of WHO officials to link TB testing and treatment with HIV prevention programs.

‘Catastrophic costs’

Close to the main gate of the Rutsanana clinic, a green self-testing HIV tent has been erected to encourage people to check their status.

The clinic also offers voluntary HIV counselling and antiretroviral treatment. 

Sithabiso Dube, a doctor with the medical charity International Union Against TB who heads the TB and HIV programme, said people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing TB, so patients are tested for both diseases.

“Instead of going to seek diabetic care at one clinic and TB care at another, they are able to get these services in one place,” Dube told AFP.

Because services are free “they are able to cut down on what we call catastrophic costs to the TB patients,” she said.

Largely funded by a US Agency for International Development (USAID) programme, the pilot clinics have become lifesavers for the poor – but only if they happen to live near them.

The vast majority of the population have no access to the one-stop clinics.

As a result there are plans to scale up the programme, with another 46 similar centres to be rolled out across Zimbabwe.

Rutsanana clinic matron Angela Chikondo said the programme was crucial to minimising complications among TB and diabetes patients.

“If one is on TB treatment and also has diabetes, and the diabetes is well controlled, chances of recovering are very high,” she said.

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South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg dies aged 66

Clegg is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron

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South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg dies aged 66
South African legendary singer Johnny Clegg, who blended Zulu rhythms with Western styles, died on July 16, 2019, after a long battle with cancer, his manager said. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

Legendary South African singer Johnny Clegg, who blended Zulu rhythms with Western styles and defied apartheid segregation laws, died on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

“Johnny passed away with his family this afternoon,” manager Roddy Quinn said. “We are devastated.” 

Clegg succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 at his home in Johannesburg, more than four years after he was diagnosed.

“Johnny leaves deep footprints in the hearts of every person that considers himself or herself to be an African,” Quinn said.

“He showed us what it was to assimilate to and embrace other cultures without losing your identity.

“In many of us, he awakened awareness.”

Nicknamed the “White Zulu”, Clegg mastered the language, culture and high kicks of Zulu dance, forming multi-racial bands in defiance of the segregationist laws of the apartheid-era government which censored his work.

South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg dies aged 66
(Photo by Trevor SAMSON / AFP)

Among his famous tracks was “Asimbonaga”, Zulu for “We have not seen him”, released in 1987 following the declaration of the first state of emergency by the apartheid government. 

The song paid tribute to Nelson Mandela — then in jail — and was outlawed because any reference to the anti-apartheid leader was illegal.

It became an international anthem for the struggle against apartheid and for modern South Africa.

‘Torchbearer’ of freedom struggle –

Clegg was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 but continued to tour and perform around the world.

He performed for the last time in October last year in Mauritius.

The South African government and fellow musicians paid tribute to Clegg as a musician and an activist.

“A towering giant has fallen with the passing of legendary Singer-songwriter & Anthropologist Johnny Clegg,” Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa posted on Twitter. 

“Our hearts are sore & as he famously sang in Asimbonanga ‘oh the sea is cold & the sky is grey’ as we contend with the loss of a torchbearer of our struggle for freedom.”

South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Johnny Clegg dies aged 66
South African singer Johnny Clegg (C) and dancers of South African band Savuka perform on stage at the Zenith concert hall in Paris as part of three-concert series dedicated to the fight against apartheid. (Photo by Bertrand GUAY / AFP)

The South African government account tweeted that Clegg “has left deep footprints in our hearts”.

Veteran singer and old friend Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse told SABC that “this is probably one of the saddest days for this country to have lost someone like Johnny Clegg. 

“Johnny was in the forefront of everything that was going right for this country,” he said.

“Johnny could have been one of the most privileged people as most white people were — but he chose to take a different direction and join in highlighting the atrocities of apartheid through his music and joined with many people involved in liberation struggle.

“Johnny took it upon himself to sing and write about Nelson Mandela when not many white people would have done that.

“His contribution was immense in profiling South Africa as a pariah state. Today we are a different country because of what people like Johnny have done.”

Apartheid arrests –

The Soweto Gospel Choir said it was “devastated at the passing of Johnny Clegg. A music icon and a true South African. We shall miss him with all our hearts”.

Clegg was born in 1953 in Lancashire, Britain and moved to Johannesburg with his mother when he was six years old.

Johnny Clegg (L) and Sipho Mchunu (C), who formerly made up the band Juluka, perform at Grandwest Arena, on June 30, 2017, in Cape Town, on the first live gig of Clegg’s final world tour, after which he is expected to retire. (Photo by RODGER BOSCH / AFP)

His exposure to Zulu migrant workers during adolescence introduced him to their culture and music, and his involvement with black musicians often saw him arrested during apartheid.

At the age of 17, together with Sipho Mchunu, he formed their first band called Juluka.

In 1986 at the height of apartheid he partnered with Dudu Zulu to form his second inter-racial band, Savuka.

Clegg also recorded several solo albums and enjoyed huge international success selling out concerts wherever he performed.

He is survived by his wife of 31 years, Jenny and their two sons Jesse and Jaron.

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