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South Africans await IAAF ruling on Caster Semenya3 minutes read

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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Business News

Zambia’s Zesco, Chinese firm enter $548 man deal

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Zesco Limited, Zambia’s state-owned electricity company, has signed contracts worth $548 million with Power China to develop three solar power plants that will add 600 megawatts (MW) to the national grid.

The three contracts are a step towards diversifying renewable energy for the country, which relies heavily on hydropower and has faced electricity shortages partly due to droughts.

“The three-grid solar PV projects will have a capacity of 200 MW each,” Zesco Managing Director, Victor Mundende said in the statement, adding that the power plants will boost access to electricity and enhance industrial development. A generating date is yet to be disclosed.

Zambia’s power supply deficit has grown by nearly 20% since September, State power utility, Zesco announced in March, despite hefty price hikes and the government’s fast-tracking of support for green energy projects. 

Zesco’s Director of Corporate Services Patrick Mwila said in March the electricity deficit had grown to 810 megawatts (MW) from a 690 MW gap in September last year. E

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Southern Africa

Sharks happy to hold on to Rugby World Cup stars

South African rugby side happy to hold on to Springboks Rugby World Cup stars Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.

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South African rugby side The Sharks have expressed their joy at holding on to Springboks Rugby World Cup stars Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a major shakeup in world and South African rugby as many high-profile players have left their clubs for pastures green.

Sharks have been able to retain the services of Am and Mapimpi but lost Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen who agreed a deal before the Super Rugby season kicked off.

Am had led the Sharks to the top of the Super Rugby table before the season was called off and was made the skipper at the start of the season.

Eduard Coetzee, Sharks CEO said he is delighted to have the pair in the team and never wanted to put pressure on them to stay at the club.

Coetzee was happy with coach Sean Everitt for the impact he has had on the team since his appointment.

“This has been quite an emotional and difficult time. What we said to the players is that one way or another they’d be doing nothing wrong” Coetzee said.

“It was not like they asked for it [the escape clause], but it was an option given to them, and then it was up to them as individuals on how to handle it.

“I think they have dealt with it really well, and it was done on a platform of respect. I think it speaks volumes for the culture we’ve established, and how [coach] Sean [Everitt] has been able to get the team really close.”

With Am and Mapimpi staying with the team, Sharks have reatained Curwin Bosch, Thomas du Toit, JJ van der Merscht, Ruben van Heerden and Aphelele Fassi.

“It shows the players’ confidence in what we’re doing,’ Coetzee went on to say.

“It’s backing up what we’re putting in place and shows that players can trust us. We’re pretty relieved, but also just very happy that no one else is heading out the door.

South Africa Rugby had initiated a 21-day contract exit window in April so players could make moves to other clubs thereby helping the financial part of the game as play has been suspended.

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Business News

Zambia seeks IMF funding to cushion Coronavirus impact

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As Zambia begins the process of shortlisting financial advisers to help reduce its debt load, the country has applied to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a COVID-19-related rapid credit facility.

Already wrestling with a growing public debt even before the Coronavirus outbreak forced lockdowns across the globe, the pandemic dealt a big blow to demand for raw materials. Zambia is Africa’s second biggest copper producer.

The IMF in April, forecast Zambia’s economy would contract by 3.5% in 2020, down from growth of 1.5% in 2019, due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the global economy.

Zambia’s economic activity has also been hampered by widespread power shortages.

The Zambian government’s external debt stock jumped to 45% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, up from 37% in the previous year, while its total debt stock is estimated at 89%, according to World Bank data.

The IMF has approved requests for emergency pandemic aid from 50 of its 189 members for a total of about $18 billion, a spokesman for the Fund said on Thursday.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Zambia rose to 252 on Saturday and deaths from the highly infectious respiratory disease increased to seven according to Health Minister, Chitalu Chilufya.

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