Caster Semenya‘s gold-medal victory in the 800m World Athletics Championships in Berlin has been overshadowed by a gender controversy. The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) ordered gender verification tests after her rapid improvement set off warning bells. Needless to say, comrade Julius Malema took this as a sign of yet another victimisation of a black person by the cruel, evil white people.
It is unfortunate that 18-year old Caster has to go through this at such a young age. She has certainly won many fans in South Africa and Wonkie hopes this media frenzy will not affect her future performance as one of South Africa’s most promising new athletes. While certainly due process needs to be followed when warning bells of any sort are raised – and nobody is exempt from these – well, with the exception of Princess Anne in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, greater care should be taken in protecting the privacy of such individuals until such time as the test results are available.
Gender testing is not uncommon and contrary to the numerous blog comments, they are not based on how masculine someone looks or sounds. Statistics also show that there is a fairly even spread of testing across the races in athletic events. The last disqualification on a gender testing basis was Indian Santhi Soundarajan who was stripped of the women’s 800 meters silver medal at the Asian Games after failing a gender test in Doha in 2006.
In other news, President Zuma is about to experience a President Mbeki moment. Former president Thabo Mbeki felt obliged to take action against then deputy-president Jacob Zuma when there were allegations of corruption against Mr Zuma. President Zuma now faces a gender test of a different type as the international community looks on at his decisions on issues surrounding now Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. In a nutshell, Mr Motlanthe has been implicated in a dodgy-looking oil deal brokered in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, one that is said to have contravened United Nations sanctions. Given Mr Zuma’s public insistence on a hardline against corruption, it will be interesting to see his next steps.