Fury over Caster ruling

And other essential news of the day

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Photo of Caster Semenya and other athletes
Caster Semenya is congratulated by swimmers Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos after winning Olympic gold. Archive photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

During May, we’re publishing and promoting the.news.letter, a digest of essential daily news produced by veteran journalists Chris Whitfield, Jonathan Ancer and Martine Barker. Enjoy!


Fury over Caster ruling

The Caster Semenya case pushes buttons in this country like little else. No wonder then that the ruling by the Court of Arbitrations for Sport (CAS) forcing female athletes to regulate testosterone levels has been met with outrage.

Semenya had appealed to CAS to overturn an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) policy decision that compels ‘hyperandrogenic’ athletes with ‘differences of sexual development’ to artificially lower testosterone levels.

But CAS didn’t, and its announcement to this effect yesterday was blasted by all and sundry in this country. Athletics South Africa (ASA) said it was ‘disappointed and shocked’ by CAS’s ‘discriminatory’ and ‘disgraceful’ ruling.

Minister for Women Bathabile Dlamini said ‘we are bitterly disappointed’ that ‘we are expected to conform to western notions …for our athletes to compete’.

Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa said the ‘regulations trample on the human rights and dignity’ of Semenya.

The ANC was ‘appalled’ by the ruling against Semenya’s ‘fight to be treated equally and without prejudice’. The DA got in on the act by calling on the government to ‘fight for her right to compete … without having to take any drugs to suppress what she was naturally born to do’.

Semenya said ‘the IAAF’s regulations have always targeted me specifically … for a decade the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger’. SA Twitter also rose in anger over the issue.

One of the few dissenting voices came from Olympic 800-metres champion Michael Johnson: ‘… it’s a difficult situation to be in but I think the decision was based on the fairness of sports, so that there is a level playing field for all of the athletes in any given race,’ said the American.

Violence in Venezuela

Venezuela is in turmoil after two days of clashes between security forces and protesters in the capital Caracas. One person has died and 46 have been injured in running battles through the city’s streets.

The clashes began after opposition leader Juan Guaidó urged the armed forces to turn against President Nicolás Maduro. The country has been in crisis since earlier this year after Guaidó and his followers declared Maduro’s 2018 re-election invalid.

Their sentiments were supported by US President Donald Trump, who yesterday vowed to do everything bar ‘the ultimate’ to bring stability to Venezuela. It seems that the armed forces are staying loyal to Maduro for now.

Another KZN political killing

Political violence continues to plague KwaZulu-Natal. Another ANC Youth League leader in the province was gunned down this week in what has been characterised as a politically-motivated killing. Dumisani Moyo, the chairperson of Ward 7 in the eThekwini region, was shot dead at his home outside Durban on Tuesday evening. ANCYL provincial secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo said: ‘… the killers of activists must be removed from power in the ANC and in government.’

Barr won’t testify

After being accused of behaving like US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer instead of the head of justice in the country, US Attorney General William Barr has refused to testify before the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives today.

Yesterday Barr was grilled in the Senate about his actions and interpretation of the Mueller report. Democrats generally feel he has been dishonest and is manipulating sentiment in favour of Trump. Republicans are suggesting that the whole Mueller investigation was a conspiracy started by Democrats to undermine the president.

Barr’s refusal to give evidence to the House today – he objected to the format of the meeting – will further inflame the bitter relationship between Trump and Democrats in Congress.


Penny wise, Malema foolish

Popular performer Papa Penny Penny is pretty pissed at the petty populist politician. At an EFF rally at Limpopo’s Nkowankowa stadium Julius Malema provoked the TV star and musician, calling him ‘uneducated’ and under Jacob Zuma’s spell. Politics is ugly and, according to Penny Penny, so is Malema. In fact, fumed Triple-P in a video he uploaded to social media, Malema was not only ugly he was also stupid and had faked his education. Ouch. In for a Penny, in for a pounding.

It wasn’t so long ago that Juju frothed at the mouth when people mocked his academic ineptitude but over the years the corruption-busting Economic Freedom Fighter embroiled in allegations of corruption and the pro-poor revolutionary member of the mink-and-manure Inanda Club has shown that he is not scared of being called a hypocrite. Yep, Double Penny called out Juju’s double standards. Let’s hope the penny finally drops.


Transnet CEO let go

Transnet has revealed that its acting CEO, Tau Morwe, who has been in the job for just six months, will not continue in the role after tomorrow when his contract expires. Instead, the until-now acting chief financial officer, Mohammed Mahomedy, will step up and take on the job – also in an acting capacity.

Chairperson Popo Molefe has thanked Morwe for his work. In other Transnet news, Noseweek today reports that it has come into possession of a memo from Morwe to managers at the parastatal dated 12 March, which informed them that senior staff would be subjected to lifestyle audits to prevent misconduct.

Now Goldman Sachs man endorses Cyril

A few days after The Economist published its view that a Cyril Ramaphosa presidency is the only sensible outcome for South Africa, the head of Goldman Sachs in sub-Saharan Africa, Colin Coleman, has said that a strong win for Ramaphosa would trigger a rally in asset prices as it would mean a strong mandate for structural reforms. According to Fin24 he told BloombergTV that support of 60% for the ANC would give Ramaphosa the ‘political space to implement his modernisation agenda’.


CAS and Caster

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) yesterday ruled Caster Semenya must reduce her testosterone levels if she wants to compete in events from 400m to 1 mile. Semenya, with the support of SASCOC and ASA, had challenged the IAAF’s controversial ruling which aims to restrict the testosterone levels of athletes in those distances.

The key ruling was that the CAS ‘… found that the DSD Regulations are discriminatory but the majority of the Panel found that, on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF’s aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the Restricted Events’.

The IAAF’s so-called DSD Regulations (for athletes with Differences of Sex Development) is limited to athletes with ‘46 XY DSD’, a condition where the affected individual has XY chromosomes. Typically, human females have two X chromosomes while males possess an XY pairing. Affected athletes who have high natural levels of testosterone will have to reduce their levels through medication to under 5 nmol/L, which is double the normal female range of below 2 nmol/L. Females with only XX chromosones will not have to reduce their testosterone levels.

It was announced this morning Semenya will be running in the 800m at the Doha leg of the Diamond League tomorrow. It is the last meeting before the new rules come into effect and so could be the last time Semenya runs the 800m before taking testosterone-lowering medicine – any bets on a new world record?

Messi masterclass

English hopes of a Champions League victory are fading after both Liverpool and Spurs were defeated in their semi-final first legs. In Barcelona, Liverpool were treated to a Lionel Messi masterclass as the Argentinian maestro scored twice to give Barcelona a 3-0 lead for the second leg at Anfield.

Liverpool matched Barca for the opening 45 and were only trailing 1-0 at the break, and had chances in the second, but could not get a vital away goal and now face a huge task to overturn the deficit next week.

On Tuesday the young Ajax Amsterdam side continued their dream run in the competition when they gained a valuable away goal as they won at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Spurs were outclassed throughout and while the Dutch side are delighted with their lead after the away leg, Mauricio Pochettino’s side will be relieved they go into the second leg in Amsterdam next week only one goal down.

Faf, Cobus up for English Awards

The English Rugby Players Association (RPA) on Wednesday announced the five nominees for their Players’ Player of the Year – two of them South African scrumhalves, Faf de Klerk (from Sale Sharks) and Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints). The other three are England’s Danny Cipriani (Gloucester Rugby) and Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) and Argentina’s Santiago Cordero (Exeter Chiefs).


Fashion’s colour statements

Here’s something a little thought-provoking: The Pudding has taken a look at the last 19 years of Vogue magazine covers and done some excellent digital journalism with them, creating a fascinating exploration of how this leading fashion brand has managed the question of colour and race. It a great piece of interactive digital visualisation.


Shock crocs rock

Business Insider reports that two of the most controversial fashions – moon bags and Crocs – have joined fashion forces to form a mutant monstrosity, known as the Pocket Crock. Japanese fashion brand Beams partnered with Crocs to create the Croc with a moon bag attached to its ankle strap. The collaboration debuted earlier this month, with shoes selling for about R750. Unsurprisingly, most fashionistas were unimpressed. But, Business Insider says the haters are wrong. ‘The fashion Frankenstein is not only on the cutting edge of aesthetics; it is also a brilliant business decision, in line with the strategy that has driven Crocs’ impressive comeback in recent years.’ It says the ‘counter-trend of ugly fashion has fully permeated the mainstream’. It’s all about the irony for Generation Irony. Ugly products are so ironic that they have become must-have trendy accessories.


Just about anyone who has attempted to author a book will relate to Michael (@Home_Halfway) today:

Just finished writing my first book!
Okay, well, most of a book.
Technically, just a chapter.
More like 10 pages.
Okay okay one page.
Half a page.
FINE I wrote a paragraph.
A sentence.
UGH I wrote a word.

I thought of a word.


Today’s clue, compiled by Kieron Callaghan, is: Approximation of a doughier mixture (5,4)

The solution to Tuesday’s clue, What Iron Man is without his suit? (5,5), is STARK NAKED. Iron Man’s identity is Tony Stark and therefore when he doesn’t have his suit on he is Stark Naked.


Someone who has studied the Caster Semenya issue is sports scientist Ross Tucker. In a podcast Caster: Explaining sex vs gender in sport he tries to make sense of this complex issue. It’s a big listen but you can skip the background of the saga and jump to 25 minutes where he starts focusing on Semenya. The BBC also takes a look at some of the issues and, over at the Guardian, Madeleine Pape, a former competitor who lost to Semenya and protested against her taking part, writes why she has since changed her mind about Semenya and thinks the CAS ruling is wrong.


Since Caster Semenya burst out of the starting blocks in the 2009 world championships she has been under the world’s microscope and subjected to a decade of humiliation, including those ‘sex tests’. Everybody has had their say – scientists, athletes, politicians, her competitors, journalists and every troll with a keyboard – on whether she has a fair or unfair advantage. The Semenya saga is a complicated cocktail of issues such as fairness, gender identity, biology and human rights. The fact that she’s a black woman has created a perfect shitstorm. We’re entering uncharted territory and the International Association of Athletics Federations and the Court of Arbitration for Sport have to make impossible decisions – unfortunately, for Semenya and her army of supporters, they have ruled against her. Their ruling seems crazy – they are forcing an athlete to take hormone-suppressing drugs to reduce what her body produces naturally: testosterone. It’s a messy battle because gender identity is not neat and it’s not binary and the controversy will no doubt rage for years before there is a satisfactory resolution. In the meantime, let’s not lose sight that at the centre of this battle is Caster Semenya, a woman whose privacy has been invaded and whose dignity has been trampled on, yet she has held her head high and has remained an inspiration to us all.


It’s gratifying to see that an investigation is underway into the negligence or otherwise of the security guards employed at Cape Town station.

Where were the guards when at least two thugs set fire to train sets in the station precinct?

Three brief thoughts: we need to know the outcome of the investigation; we need to know the name of the security company and the name/s of its owners; and we need an update on progress being made in the investigation into the group damaging trains in the Cape.

Blake Wilkins

We welcome your insights, observations and compliments (especially your compliments) so please send them to thenewsletter.daily@gmail.com

GroundUp’s Disclaimer: Although we like the.news.letter and are promoting it in May, we don’t produce it. If you want to express how much you love or hate it, please email Chris, Jonathan and Martine.


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