Athletics South Africa on Caster Semenya Controversy and Team Performance in Berlin

Sports, Arts and Culture

19 October 2009
Chairperson: Mr BM Komphela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The new leadership of the South African Football Association were congratulated on their election.  The election process had been carried out in terms of their constitution and had been accepted by the international federation.  Dissident groups should follow constitutional remedies if they had grievances.

Members reminded them that football was a popular sport amongst the youth.  They were urged to play a role in the regeneration of school sport.  Structures had to be put in place to assist with early childhood development.  They undertook to do this and to remedy problems surrounding the display of national symbol and the playing of the incorrect anthem before matches.  They committed themselves to maintain good corporate governance and working selflessly for the game.  They requested the Committee to intervene in a dispute with the Premier Soccer League over the holding of the Peace Cup tournament.  After discussion with the current national coach he had agreed to resign from his contract.  A thorough process would be followed in naming his replacement.

South Africa had enjoyed great success at the Athletics World Championships.  With success in the marathon and cross-country disciplines the country was now ranked in the top ten countries.  Members agreed that the medallists should be invited to Parliament as part of national celebrations.

The issues surrounding Ms Caster Semenya were discussed in depth.  A gender verification test was conducted before she left for the Championships.  Team management declined a suggestion made by a medical committee of the International Association of Athletics Federations that she withdraw from the race by faking an injury.  The International Association of Athletics Federations was wrong to make the matter public as this violated their own protocols.  Athletics South Africa insisted that they were correct to deny knowledge of the tests in order to protect Ms Semenya.  African National Congress members were adamant that the proposed visit to the country by the President of International Association of Athletics Federations would not be allowed unless the body offered an unconditional apology for their handling of the case.


Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed delegations from the South African Football Association (SAFA) and Athletics South Africa (ASA).  The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) had tendered an apology for the first time.  They would have briefed the Committee on preparations for the 2012 Olympics but this would be held over.  The DA had sent a letter to the Committee requesting a report-back on the Beijing Olympics from SASCOC.  That meeting would still be held, as there had been no time earlier in the year in the run-up to the elections.

Mr Komphela said that government respected the rights of federations to practice micro-management.  The Sports Act did however make provision for federations to account for funds allocated to them for development.  The federations had to serve as a link with schools, clubs and the Department of Sport and Recreation (SRSA).  The demise of school sport had occurred after the United School Sports Association of South Africa (USSASA) had been scrapped.  This had been a big mistake and had impacted on transformation issues.

The Chairperson said that codes such as rugby and cricket had developed impressive facilities that were living monuments.  This was not the case with football.  The impression was that leaders were enriching themselves without leaving any legacy.

Mr Komphela said that three years previously, after the 2010 World Cup had been awarded to South Africa, the Committee had met with SAFA.  SAFA was no in injury time as the tournament drew nearer.  At the time, the Committee had proposed that all Premiership and First Division clubs should identify tow of their members with potential.  These players would then have been incorporated into a training squad from which the World Cup team would have been chosen.  The Committee’s proposal had now been vindicated.  He now had no hope that South Africa would survive the group stage with just six months left before the World Cup.  A string of defeats suffered by the national team was killing all hope.  No support base was being developed.  There seemed to be no urgency in SAFA’s preparations.  Drastic action was needed.

The Chairperson said that another problem was the display of the national symbol.  This was being done incorrectly.  The symbol should be displayed on the left breast of the yellow jersey although the alternate green jersey was correct.  It had been hard work to persuade SAFA to have the emblem on the jersey at all.

Mr Komphela said that the anthem used before matches in the recent Under20 World Cup had been wrong.  The apartheid song had been used.  This was not the first time such an incident had occurred.  An example was during an event in Algeria.  The Committee had requested that no anthem be played before South African matches if the correct anthem was not available.  The world was on its way to South Africa and the issue had to be addressed.

Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) hoped that the new leadership of SAFA would establish the necessary structures.  These were needed at Under 17 level and lower.  Former coach Stewart Baxter had cried out for these.  Players of 25 years were still not fully mature.  It was a disaster at the lower levels.  The game had to be taken to a higher level.  SAFA should look at what was being done in countries like Lesotho and Iceland.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) stressed the importance of early childhood development.  If this was not done there could be no transformation.  SAFA must strengthen junior structures.  Football was the first sport of many black children.  She was also concerned on gender issues.  She asked how the national women’s team, known as Banyana Banyana, could get more exposure.  Patriotism was needed towards this team. She asked if the problem was a lack of support and sponsorship.  The national anthem should be played and sung correctly.  The South African players din not normally sing the anthem.  This also applied to other countries.  She asked if there was a problem with selection.  The national team had performed badly.  She asked if SAFA would force the appointment of assistant coaches.  The services of a sports psychologist were needed.  SAFA must target the underdeveloped areas of the country.

Mr D Lee (DA) congratulated SAFA’s new leadership.  However, they would only succeed if they were dedicated.  They must be honest and could always count on Government’s support.  There was a big problem in that SAFA did not concentrate on development.  School sport did not exist.  National federations should support school sport, but not control it.  Teachers should control school sport with the assistance of the national federations.

Mr B Dhlamini (IFP) said that the last fourteen years of SAFA had seen a mafia style of leadership.  Football was a national asset and SAFA must administer the sport on behalf of the nation.

Mr L Suka (ANC) wished the leadership well.  A hundred day evaluation should be conducted.  He already saw that they were leading from the front.  They needed to implement strategies in respect of transformation.  Strategic documents set targets.  Finances had to be scrutinised especially when Government grants were given.

The Chairperson recalled a funding issue.  Funding to SAFA had been stopped because of discrepancies.  Ten years previously SAFA had declined a R75 000 grant because it involved too much paperwork.  This had been decided by the then President of SAFA, Mr Oliphant.  SAFA must realise that the Public Funds Management Act (PFMA) revolved around paperwork.  He noted an article published in the Sowetan newspaper.  A group within SAFA’s ranks had rejected the new leadership, claiming that the election had been unconstitutional.  This could be seen as mutiny as this group was trying to sow anarchy.

Mr Komphela said that the same situation pertained to ASA.  There had to be some means to deal with the issues.  He was worried about the patterns that were emerging.  He had listened to a discussion on Radio Good Hope that had centred on the notion of Coloured nationalism.  This was a dangerous phenomenon.  The dissident groups in the ASA issue were Boland, Western Province and a neighbouring union.  Something was wrong with this.  The outcome meetings and elections had to be accepted.  If bodies were dissatisfied then there should be constitutional remedies for them to follow.  Rebels could make their opinions known but not bring their federations into disrepute.  When they did they should be dealt with ruthlessly and mercilessly.

Presentation by South African Football Association

Mr Kirsten Nematandani (President, SAFA) said that it was a privilege to address the Committee.  A number of issues had been raised that deserved a response.  The SAFA executive needed wings to fly.  The federation’s election procedure was laid down in its constitution.  They had considered postponing the election but that was now history.  By the grace of God they were present now.  The International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) had a genuine concern with the events.  They had invested over R38 billion.  A win-win solution was needed.  Both of the original contestants for the post of President had been looking after World Cup matters and there was a fear that the leadership contest would derail World Cup preparations.  Both candidates had withdrawn on the day of the election.  His team was committed to the game and had come from grassroots level.

The SAFA President said that the federation was going back to basics.  Children were playing the game.  Resources should be deployed at that level.  The bigger the base was for football in the country the better the chance was of unearthing raw talent.  Since USSASA had been abolished the South African Schools Football Association (SASFA) had carried the lamp for football at school level.  Football was paving the way for school sport.  SAFA was organising tournaments for both boys and girls.

Mr Nematandani apologised that there were no women in the delegation.  For the first time a woman had been elected to the SAFA executive.  This was Ms Nomsa Mahlangu, who had been co-opted onto the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC) Board. This was giant step. SASOL had announced a sponsorship for the national women’s team, which was now ranked second in Africa.  They were now challenging Nigeria for first place.  In 2010 the Women’s Under 20 Championships would be held in South Africa.

The President of SAFA said that the executive had held discussions with the coach of the national team.  There had been certain relationships discussed.  Eventually Mr Santana had accepted the viewpoint of SAFA and they had agreed to part ways.  Many candidates had been identified to replace him and a calculated decision would be made.  He did not wish to name the candidates as this might cause destabilisation at their clubs.

Mr Nematandani could not understand how the problem over the incorrect use of the national symbol had been allowed to develop.  Incorrect use of national symbols was tantamount to treason.  The problem would have to be corrected.

The SAFA President appealed to the Committee to appeal to the Minister to rejuvenate school sport.  The withdrawal of Physical Education (PE) as a subject had led to the downfall of school sport.  PE and school sport were only to be found in the privileged schools.  All the disadvantaged schools emptied at the end of the academic day whereas the privileged schools were busy with sport.  PE had been so critical as a means of identifying talent, and had been a means of expression.

Mr Nematandani said that the wrong anthem that had been played at the Under 20 World Cup was another form of treason.  All embassies should have the correct version of the anthem.  He admitted that football players were culprits when it came to not singing the anthem.

The SAFA President said that Mr Baxter had been correct in the importance he placed on early development of players.  There had been some good progress and these players were still in the system.  Mr Serame had been appointed as a Technical Director.  Stringent tests had been applied.  A FIFA delegation had short listed candidates.  There was a challenge to parents as early child development started in the home.  Black parents were particularly challenged in terms of affordability.  There were complaints that some schools did not offer football as a sport.  Parents should approach the school governing body in order to redress this.  He had no doubt of the importance of early childhood development.  A regional structure was important.

Mr Nematandani said that the concept of linking sport and education did not seem to apply in football.  Children would rather play than study.  However, players had to make some plan for their lives after their careers.  It was a shame how many heroes of yesteryear were now in limbo.  Education was a key issue.  The team that had won the Rugby World Cup in 1995 contained ten graduates.  There were none in the national football team.  This lack of education impacted on the level of debate that was needed in preparation for a game.  Education also gave young people discipline.  The nation had to embrace the issue.  South African players went overseas but few developed into real stars.

The President of SAFA asked how professional the Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams were.  Research showed that only two of the sixteen clubs operated on a professional basis.  Other clubs seemed to survive solely on the grants given to them by the PSL.  Many issues were lacking.

Mr Nematandani said that the legacy issue was a challenge.  He would not be looking at the members of his executive taking R70 million in commission.  Although he did not want to see them lose their enthusiasm, a high level of integrity was needed.  The executive would pledge themselves to serve the nation.  Already R81 million had been received from the lottery and First National Bank, which had been used to build artificial surface, fields throughout the country.  The election had been based on honesty and trust.  None of his executive members was a millionaire.  They wanted to remain humble.  He recalled an incident at Burgersdorp the previous weekend.  Five players had been killed in a car accident.  This was the first time that SAFA national executive members had attended such an occasion.

Mr Nematandani said that a strategic planning session would be held where time frames would be developed.  The executive’s fiduciary responsibility was a key factor.  One of the Deputy Presidents, Mr MS Mazibuko, chaired the finance committee.  It was right that the Government funding had been stopped.  SAFA had been out of order.  The body must be accountable.  They were not above the law, and served as caretakers for the sport. 

Mr Nematandani said that the article published in the Sowetan was unfortunate.  Media houses wielded massive power.  People were informed by the media and relied on them to form their personal opinions.  The media abused the stage they occupied.  This was unethical.  He called for objective reporting.

Mr Nematandani said that he and the executive had been in office for just three weeks.  Already groundbreaking decisions had been taken.  The issue of the national coach was now history.  Members had been sent to sit on the LOC.  A staff audit was being conducted.  The School of Excellence programme was being beefed up.  Mr Mazibuko was on the Board.  SAFA wished to revive this project.

Mr Nematandani said that SAFA had a constitution with which it had to abide.  There had been a meeting to challenge the legality of the election.  A Vice-President of FIFA had declared that the election was above board.  There had been a meeting with the President of FIFA, Mr Sepp Blatter.  The two candidates who had withdrawn their nominations, Dr Khoza and Dr Jordaan, were committed to the World Cup.  SAFA had met with the President of the African Football Confederation (CAF) and others.  Only five regions had been present at the election, not 31 as reported by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Discussion

The Chairperson said that the Committee would not entertain the presentation prepared by SAFA.  He asked Members to take the printed copy and read through it.  Another meeting would be arranged for the presentation.  Members were convinced of the commitment of the executive.  He urged the SAFA leaders to be cohesive and to show a united leadership.  They must show what they were made of.  Mistakes would prove to be detrimental.  The media thrived on that kind of confrontation.  Anybody would understand the dire situation they faced.

Mr Komphela said that SASOL was a sponsor of rugby.  All of the current players had been through the hands of the current coach, Mr Pieter de Villiers.  SASOL had stated in public that they were not confident in Mr de Villiers.  The Committee had threatened SASOL about their stance.  They had also sent a clear message to Nedbank.  Support for sport was all about the children.  Sponsors could never dictate to federations.  In a recent case children on their way to play in a SAFA tournament had died in an accident.  The federation had been there and supported the families.  Impressive work had been done.  However, there was no monument to the people who had died at the stadium in Orkney, unlike the monument that had been erected at Ellis Park.

Ms Tseke asked about persons with disability.  There were many sports management graduates.  She asked why they and former players were not used to bolster club administration.  She suggested that Bafana Bafana should adopt a slogan that would encourage them to win.

Mr G MacKenzie (COPE) said that it was refreshing to hear a sports administrator deliver a speech about sport rather than politics.  He asked if there would be another SAFA election.  A panel of three coaches had been appointed to review Mr Santana’s performance.  He asked if they had submitted a report yet.  The issue of school sport must not be taken lightly.  If a child was not technically proficient in football by the age of fourteen he would never be.  Perhaps this was why South African teams were unsuccessful.  Ghana was doing something right and South Africa should perhaps look there for a model.  He asked when the coach would be appointed.  He suggested that the coach of Russia be approached should his team fail to qualify for the World Cup Finals.  He said that the economic model left a lot to be desired.  The PSL teams based in Durban showed a total lack of professionalism despite the grants being paid to them.  They would not survive without the grants.  Perhaps more sponsorship funding should be channelled towards grassroots development.  Sponsors wanted to see good governance and accountability.

Mr lee said that he was now convinced that the future of football was in good hands.  All the SAFA members were motivated and had spoken passionately about the game.  He was glad that one administrator was committed to his people.  The previous leadership of SAFA had been demotivated.

Mr J McGluwa (ID) asked if a copy of the report of the Jomo Sono trio was available.  During Mr Santana’s tenure South Africa had dropped twenty places in the rankings.  He asked why he had not been fired much sooner.

Mr MS Mazibuko (Deputy President, SAFA) was humbled by the Members’ comments.  Football was a uniting force.  This meeting was contributing towards transformation.  Earlier in the year the matter of the Peace Cup had been brought to SAFA’s attention.  SAFA was the only governing body.  The PSL was a subordinate member of SAFA.  Events such as the proposed Peace Cup had to be held under the umbrella of SAFA.  They had to intervene or else there could be an embarrassing situation such as that with the Dalai Lama.  The tournament was planned for Cape Town.  SAFA had told the PSL that it would be improper for the PSL to run the tournament on their own.  SAFA would have to apply to FIFA for permission to stage the event or else there would be trouble.  Four letters had been sent to the PSL without response.  When South Africa were playing in Norway there had been a launch of the Peace Cup.  This was an embarrassment to SAFA and the South African Government.  It had to be clear that Bafana Bafana were not to be associated with the Peace Cup.  He asked the Committee to intervene in the matter.  He did not want to see more embarrassment.  SAFA would not approve the event unless the PSL applied through them, and this had not yet been done.

Mr Raymond Hack (Chief Executive Officer (CEO), SAFA) said that there had been no challenge to the leadership.  The election had been conducted in the proper manner.  Independent observers and electoral officers had been present.  The PSL had requested a transcript of proceedings.  One region had wanted to question the election but had not followed up on their original request.  FIFA was satisfied with the way it had been run.  The media had the wrong perspective on the coaching review issue.  The team of three had been appointed to make an independent report on the performances of the national team.  The first matches under review had been those in Norway and Iceland and the review process would continue to include the forthcoming match against Japan.  They would then compile a report for SAFA.  Their brief had nothing to do with the coach.

Mr Nematandani said that SAFA would meet on the matter the following Friday.  The mandate of the monitoring group might be extended.  There was a complaint that people were not being involved.  There was a wealth of sports scientists in the country.  SAFA needed to engage with them.  He took the Chairperson’s point on Orkney and would follow up on it.  There was a question on the ownership of the World Cup stadiums.  So much tax revenue had been spent on them.  Something should go back to the sport.  SAFA was busy with a document in this regard.  The issue of people with disabilities was a crucial one.  SAFA would commit itself to good governance.  The Peace Cup planning was showing a tendency to undermine SAFA.  He had told the CEO of the PSL that they were overstepping the mark.  It was wrong to blame the PSL, as it was certain individuals who were organising things.

The Chairperson did not know who the Peace Cup role players were.  The Committee would want to interact with the organisers.  Government would have to intervene if there was a potential to divide the country.  The buck had to stop with SAFA.  The wars of dispossession were over but some of the dangerous ordnance was still out there like landmines in the street.  The sooner peace came to football the better.  The Committee would be the first to support SAFA.  There had been a bad settlement with the oppressors.  He had spent years in jail but could still remember the words of Nelson Mandela.  He requested feedback by the following week.  Despite the issues surrounding the Peace Cup it was a noble initiative.

Mr Komphela urged SAFA to familiarise itself with the Sports Act.  Conditions were imposed on players.  The Committee had been opposed to appointing a foreign CEO.  This was not because the appointee was a white man.  There was a lot of talent in the country and a local person could have been found for the job.  Somewhere in SRSA there was a person who was approving applications without understanding what they were all about.

The Chairperson said that the Football Union was another body the Committee needed to meet.  Government had invested R50 billion in stadiums.  There had to be some benefit for the people after the World Cup.  Ownership of the stadiums was the key.  Government had spent between r600 million and R700 million in renovating the stadium in Bloemfontein.  Rugby could not have the final say on the further use of the stadium.  The same applied to Loftus Versveld.  No more unilateral decisions could be taken.  Government had a 45% share of the FNB Stadium.  There could never be a blank cheque.  The ground belonged to the Public Works Department.  The FNB Stadium could never be described as a PSL asset.  The Minster had promised that contracts would be drawn up with the stadium owners.  It was not a football issue alone.  There could be no monopoly on these venues.  The pain was being healed.  There would be no patronisation.  School sport must be revived and to this the Committee would give its 100% support.

The Chairperson said that there had been disturbing political interference involving ASA.  SASCOC was an interested party and had lined up the journalists.  The Committee could not recognise whatever report SASCOC would introduce.  They had no credibility in this matter.  The Committee had not yet spoken with ASA.  Only one statement had been released.  He apologised that the meeting scheduled earlier in the year had been cancelled.  The letter from the DA requesting the meeting had been received while the Chairperson and other Members had been in Gauteng and there had been no time to schedule the meeting before the end of the previous Parliamentary session.  He stressed that it was not his decision to call the meeting, but it was a reaction to the request from the DA.  He asked what support measures had been put in place for Ms Caster Semenya.  They should be looking at ways to celebrate her achievements rather than to hang her on the altar.  He acknowledged that ASA was going through difficult times but leaders must accept that they were subject to public scrutiny.

Presentation by Athletics South Africa

Mr Leonard Chuene (President, ASA) introduced the ASA delegation.  He had been called a liar even though all the facts were on paper.  The same statements had been made at the press conference.  Things were falling into the hands of the people setting agendas.

Mr Chris Britz (Board Member, ASA) said that ASA welcomed the opportunity to present to the Committee.  Team South Africa had participated at the World Athletics Championships in 2005 and 2007 without winning a single medal.  Few athletes had even qualified for the finals in their events.  In 2009 South Africa had experienced a record number of finalists.  Two athletes had won gold medals and one silver.  South Africa had finished ninth on the medals table.  This was testimony to the success of the high performance programme.  The result was second only to that achieved in Paris 2003.  All of this was overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Ms Semenya.

Mr Britz said that the successes of 2009 were not flukes.  The South African team had finished ninth out of over 200 competing teams at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Cross-country championships.  This was an excellent result.  The marathon team had achieved fifth place and sixth place in the half marathon event.  These results put South Africa firmly in the top ten countries in the world.  South Africa had finished top of the medal standings for the first time at the African Junior Championships.  The momentum was building for the 2012 Olympic Games.  Much of the success was attributed to a Kenyan who had been hired to coach middle and long distance runners.  This decision had been proved to be correct. 

Mr Britz said that the mandate of ASA was to promote unity, transformation and development.  The success of the development programme was evident in the ASA youth and junior track and field event that had attracted 2500 athletes from seventeen provinces, the biggest ever field.  The cross-country championships entry had more than doubled to over 3 000 participants.  All provinces were represented there as well and the age of participants ranged from six years to over sixty.  Development was taking place at all levels.

Caster Semenya Issue

Mr Britz said that there were many allegations surrounding Ms Semenya.  These were all based on speculation.  ASA had already been convicted and sentenced.  Ms Semenya was a member of ASA and had represented the country at a number of international competitions.  In 2008 she had been a member of the South African team at the youth championships and had won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games.  She had been running since she was a little girl.  She had not always been successful, failing to go past the first round in the event in Poland in 2008.  ASA had no question about accepting her as female, and the IAAF also accepted that she was female.  ASA had never questioned her gender.  They would continue to fight for her dignity and rights.  They would co-operate with the Committee in this matter.  ASA was devastated with what had happened.  No one knew what the effect on Ms Semenya would be.

Mr Britz said that ASA was ready to fight with the IAAF.  The repercussions of this affair would be felt for many years.  There were now landmines all over for women in sport.  The South African team had left for Germany on 17 July 2009.  Ms Semenya was not with them at the time as she was with the junior team in Mauritius.  There she had run a time of 1 min 56 seconds.  This was a new South African senior record and the fastest time for any woman in 2009.

Mr Britz said that Dr Harold Adams had been in Mauritius as part of the IAAF’s medical team.  The ASA doctor present was Dr S Khumalo.  On 4 August the General Manager of ASA received an e-mail from Dr Adams expressing concern over Ms Semenya.  This e-mail was sent on behalf of the IAAF medical and doping committee.  The IAAF request was based on unconfirmed reports that stemmed from an internet blog published by Media24.  Several e-mails had been sent back and forth, but only two had been published.  This skewed the perception of what the process had been.  The IAAF had requested gender tests.  The Constitution of ASA did not allow for such tests.  Gender testing was also not part of the IAAF Constitution, but was the subject of a policy document.  The ASA had honoured the IAAF request by assisting with the gender verification tests.  These had been started in Pretoria before her departure for Berlin.

Mr Britz said that Dr Adams had requested that these tests be performed in strict confidence.  There was an impasse over the psychological counselling that was required.  Ms Semenya declined to undergo this counselling without the presence of her coach, but only the psychologist and Ms Semenya could be present because of the need for confidentiality.  A doctor appointed by Dr Adams had conducted the physical tests on 7 August.  It was unclear what was discussed.  There was a question of whether she was briefed on the procedure and on what had transpired.  After the first test she departed for Germany on the following day.

Mr Britz said that ASA had received confirmation of her entry into the championships.  It was up to the Chef du Mission to submit a list of athletes entered and the events in which they would participate.  The team manager signed this off.  Ms Semenya’s name was included in the entry form.  On 13 August the team manager had received a request from Dr Adams for Ms Semenya to be withdrawn.  This was based on rumours.  He told the Chef du Mission that this was his recommendation.  He had received a preliminary verbal indication on the results of the tests and things were not looking good.  He could not divulge details due to doctor/patient confidentiality rules.  The matter was referred to Mr Chuene.  On 14 August Mr Chuene met with an IAAF medical committee.  The basis for the request to withdraw Ms Semenya was a verbal request.  The committee suggested that she fake an injury.  Mr Chuene rejected this suggestion, as it was unethical.  The second option was that she should run and the matter would be dealt with later.  The team management was happy that she should participate.  They had no reason to believe that the IAAF would break their protocol.  In the absence of solid evidence she was cleared to participate.  She won the final and received the medal and prize.

Mr Britz said that other gender tests had been conducted in the last two years but the names had not been made public.  On the team’s return to South Africa on 25 August ASA members had denied knowledge of the tests in order to protect Ms Semenya.  They did not know why the IAAF had released her name.  Her condition was common knowledge in South Africa.  The Secretary General had disclosed this on the ASA website.  The rumours had originated from a blog posted by Media 24 in March or April 2009.  The IAAF had been told that this had nothing to do with ASA.  It was an embarrassment to the IAAF.

Mr Britz said that ASA had consistently denied knowledge of the tests.  They had continued to deny this knowledge in the interests of confidentiality and the best interests of the athlete.  To acknowledge the tests would have compromised Ms Semenya’s privacy and would have fuelled debate.  They were aware of one test conducted by one doctor.  The official tests required evaluations by a wide range of medical specialists.  ASA would have had to accept the findings of this one test, which it would not do.  The denials had not been done out of malice or to deceive the public.  They had eventually been forced to break the confidentiality protocol to clear up the allegations. 

Mr Britz extended an unconditional apology for ASA’s actions.  They would not, however, apologise for allowing Ms Semeeaya to compete and for protecting her.  The matter could have been handled differently.  Team management had a mandate to take decisions.  What had gone wrong was that the IAAF had tried a black runner with no proof.  There had been no official challenge to her participation from competition officials, other competitors, national federations or medical officers.

Mr Britz said that the IAAF had held a press conference on 19 August.  They announced that they were awaiting the results of the tests.  This was highly irregular and was a breach of their own rules.  The policy was that there would be no compulsory gender verification procedures during IAAF events.  If there had been an official protest a hearing should have been held.  The athlete and her federation should have been invited to attend any such hearing.  This had not happened.

Mr Britz said that ASA had not withdrawn Ms Semenya because the allegations were based on an internet blog.  This would have been bowing to aspersions without proof.  It was correct for the President of ASA to protect her.  He asked what the consequences would have been had she been withdrawn from the race.  There were other issues.  The ASA did not have test results. They had not sanctioned, ordered or paid for the tests.  They could not confirm the report published in Australia.

Mr Britz said that the interview conducted by the You magazine had been an agreement between the magazine and Ms Semenya.  It had been sanctioned by ASA.  All the money had gone to Ms Semenya.  She had denied further requests for interviews.  ASA agreed with that position.  An insert, which had been recorded for use on the Top Billing television programme, had been withdrawn.  ASA had no commercial interests in any athlete. 

Mr Britz would not comment on Mr Wilfred Daniels although he felt that the statements Mr Daniels had released were reckless.  He had quoted details of the tests.  Mr Daniels was not a doctor.  He had assisted ASA with the preparation of high performance athletes.  He had resigned after the championships.  He had been invited to work through the channels, and owed an apology both to Ms Semenya and ASA.

Mr Britz denied that the athlete had been sacrificed to win a medal.  There had been ample time to reflect on the matter.  If she had been withdrawn from the race the same hullabaloo would have resulted.  ASA knew that tests had been requested but could not confirm this to the media.  The truth is that she was a woman.  He quoted Mr Chuene’s rationale.  His conscience was clear.

Forward Strategy

Mr Britz said that a five-year strategy was in place.  The current Board had been in office for one year.  They were determined to succeed and improve on the results of the 2008 Olympic Games.  They had set a goal of being in the top ten rankings.  ASA had been humbled by the performance of the athletes.  The challenge was to sustain this level of performance.  They needed the support of Government, the private sector and the community.  The strategy included increasing the level of participants, developing a full time squad, establishing a high performance centre, mass participation and development.  The country faced challenges of crime and obesity.  Key performance areas were high performance, provincial and local capacity building, development and governance.

Mr Britz said that funding was a challenge.  Unlike SAFA, which received millions in sponsorships, the ASA budget was approximately R30 million.  This was used to prepare teams and to train coaches and officials.  He was an official of the Gauteng North federation.  Their budget was R2 million.  They were responsible for 8 000 senior athletes alone.  The athletes were performing despite the lack of resources.  Every weekend there were meetings in track and field, cross country and road running.  There were over 50 000 registered athletes countrywide.  The committee members were all volunteers who were passionate about the sport.

Mr Britz said that ASA faced challenges.  They were under pressure from opportunists who were set to destroy ASA.  They were using the Caster Semenya incident as a tool to reach their objectives.  Scores were being settled.  There was resistance in the seventeen provinces.  Some members were dissatisfied with the unity and transformation processes.  People were making judgements on issues without understanding them.  The structure of ASA had been destabilised and the federation was being divided on racial lines.  ASA had strived to build a non-racial body.  The current scandal was diverting attention from their real role and resources had to be used which should have gone elsewhere.  The sooner issues were laid to rest the better.  The withdrawal of sponsorships was painful.  This was irresponsible behaviour and was not in the interests of the sport.  The plans of ASA could be derailed in the process.

Discussion

 The Chairperson announced a break for lunch after which Members could pose questions of clarity.

Mr Lee had listened attentively to the presentation.  He was perhaps also an opportunist.  He would tolerate being called any name except a liar.  Mr Daniels had been vilified in the report.  He was a man with his own opinion and found that he could not live with his conscience.  Mr Lee had great respect for him.  It was a pity that neither he nor Dr Adams was present, as the Committee had only heard one side of the story.  An athlete should always be ready to be tested, both for doping and gender.  There were specific rules to provide for this.  If there was any doubt then the athlete must submit to testing.  He asked if Ms Semenya was the first athlete to undergo gender testing.  She had been tested in South Africa.  Dr Adams had been involved.  He asked if there had also been tested in Berlin.  He had some information on that matter.

Mr McGluwa said that this meeting was long overdue.  He congratulated ASA on the medals won.  The media had criticized Mr Komphela belligerently.  ASA could not be aligned to any political party.  They should have requested assistance from the Government and not the ANC.  He felt for Ms Semenya and stated that the case had been handled badly.  ASA had to take some blame.  He was looking forward top the IAAF releasing the test results in November.  Many questions would be raised then.  Anecdotal evidence had led to the meeting between Mr Chuene and the medical committee.  He asked why Ms Semenya could not have run under protest.  He asked who had attended the meeting.  The President of ASA had been crucified.  Hew asked what the mandate of that committee was.  It seemed that there was only some verbal evidence.  He asked why ASA had been forced to break the protocol of confidentiality.  ASA had denied knowledge of the tests to protect Ms Semenya.  He asked why they had simply issued a no comment until the tests were concluded.

Mr MacKenzie said that the meeting on 13 August had been called on recommendations based on rumours.  He asked what these rumours were.  The Media 24 blog had apparently triggered the IAAF report.  The IAAF had sent a three-man delegation to the meeting.  Something was not right there.  The IAAF obviously had concerns.  Surely a higher body should have pursued the matter given the seriousness.  ASA had broken confidentiality.  Mr Chuene had sent Ms Semenya to the Championships knowing the possible consequences.  A conscious effort had been made to deny the truth.  The reporting was deflecting issues away from ASA.  The story had been in all the media.  Something should have been said.  Ms Semenya should not be involved.

The Chairperson agreed that she must be taken away from the media.

Mr MacKenzie said that no tests could be conducted during the Championships.  The alleged problem had arisen before.  The controversy was exaggerated because she won the race.  She was not the issue.

The Chairperson said that the issue had become public at an IAAF press conference.  The issues were not obvious to him or to anyone who did not have the information.  Leaders should be credible.  They did not exist in a vacuum.  He asked when ASA had been made aware of the problem.

Mr Dhlamini said that the whole saga reflected badly on ASA.  The gender verification process was littered with landmines.  Three weeks previously the murderers of a Banyana Banyana player had been convicted.  Their motive was to “fix her”.  He asked how many women were in the same position as Ms Semenya.  It was a real situation.  ASA had to rise above politics to address the issue.

The Chairperson said that people must stop crucifying Ms Semenya.  He cared about this child.  The churches were conspicuously quiet on the issue.  God made people differently.  Society must accept this.  The spirit of ubuntu must be grasped.  People must understand the issues and learn from experience.

Mr J van der Linde (DA) said that ASA was taking no responsibility.  They were saying that they had done nothing wrong.  The blame was shifted on to Dr Adams, Mr Daniels and the IAAF.  Ms Semenya had won the race and been presented with the medal and the prize money.  He asked why the medical committee had withheld the information if they thought that it was wrong for her to participate.  The normal practice was that prize money was withheld until all doping and other tests were complete.  There were a lot of such people out there.  He asked if they were eligible to use their talents.  The case of the murdered soccer player was disturbing, but such incidents were happening every day.  Ms Martina Navratilova, the tennis legend, had asked why ASA had given permission for the test.  It was wrong to approve the test.

The Chairperson said that legislators had to deal with the issue of human rights.  He asked why Dr Adams would have acted illegally.  There was no discrimination in South Africa.  The gender test was diabolic.  He asked how the ASA leadership could consent to the test when it was contrary to their own constitution.

Ms Tseke said that as an African woman she should have all the information.  There was nothing wrong with the test being conducted.  The problem was in the way the result was revealed.  The IAAF would only release the results in November.  The report published in Australia should lead to criminal proceedings.  She asked how the results had been obtained.  Émigrés in Australia were trying to destroy South Africa.  She asked how many athletes were suspected, or if it was only because Ms Semenya won.  African women respected their privacy.  They had a constitutional right to this.  She asked what the criterion was for withholding funding to ASA.  She asked if Dr Adams had anything to hide.

Mr Suka agreed with some of the earlier questions.  It was a hard issue to debate.  A rural woman had won a gold medal and was empowering herself educationally.  She was no in the crossfire.  The country was not making any effort to lift her whereas the nation had rallied behind Zola Budd in the past.  There was a serious disjuncture.  The social responsibility of the media should be explored.  God created men and women.  There was nothing in between.  If South Africa was a religious country then it was a wrong move to believe otherwise.  There was no law to define a human being.  The Committee should perhaps call on religious bodies.  He asked if ASA had a legal unit.  He asked why some of the key people were not at this meeting.  Blame had been centred on their President.  If ASA had a researcher then they would have been able to touch on the applicable laws.  Two members had resigned because of their own views.

Mr Suka said that the tests had been conducted at a laboratory in Pretoria.  Someone there had leaked the results.  The President must be aware of this.  He asked what Mr Chuene intended to do about it.  The media would not keep quiet if such dramatic news came their way.  He asked who was allowing the President of IAAF to come to South Africa with a blank cheque.  He must apologise first as a condition of entry into the country.  He must meet with the Committee.  He asked if the issue had been raised with the African Athletics Federation (AAF).  National bodies must be rallied.

Mr Dikgacwi said that ASA must tell the IAAF that their President was not welcome until he issued an unconditional apology.  Ms Semenya had represented South Africa at a number of international competitions and had been certified as a female.  It was a clear racial issue.  A black South African woman could not be allowed to beat athletes from Australia, the United States of America and other western countries.

Mr Dhlamini was unclear as to whether Ms Semenya knew that she was undergoing a gender verification test.

Mr Dikgacwi said that ASA must get to the bottom of the matter.

The Chairperson asked where Dr Adams was.  This was a most dangerous person as he had divulged confidential information.

Mr Dikgacwi said that the ANC was not saying that ASA had not made mistakes.  There must be some ASA responsibility.  The confidentiality issue could not be left unchallenged.  He asked why South African specialists had not been involved with the testing.  South Africa was a sovereign country.  The IAAF could not do what they liked with the country’s children.  The results presented might be false and he asked how the country would know if this was the case.  He asked who had mandated SASCOC to investigate the matter.  The press had run with the negative aspects of the story.  There was no positive news about the three medals won.  He asked when this success would be celebrated.  He asked who was running the press.  There was no patriotism.  The issue needed to be closed and a way forward mapped out.  There was a need for a debate in Parliament.  Someone like Lucas Radebe was more respected in London than South Africa.  It was a shame.  Children were being left orphans.  ASA must lead the celebrations.

Mr Chuene said that Mr Daniels was an employee of ASA.  He was not a doctor.  He was the President of the Boland federation, which was one of three dissident provinces.  They had left ASA and were now making demands from the outside.

The Chairperson was informed about this.  Mr Daniels would never be the doctor of the President of South Africa as he had claimed.  Mr Komphela could offer a 100% guarantee on that.

Mr Suka noted that Mr Daniels was still sitting in the IAAF while no longer being a member of ASA.

Mr Chuene said that there was a complicated system.  The IAAF medical committee consisted of about five people.  They did not represent their countries on this body.  There were two scenarios.  As a member of the IAAF Mr Daniels would be governed by their own rules.  He was not saying that the IAAF should not have done what they did.  They should have followed their own constitution.  He was stating a fact in this regard, not diverting responsibility.  ASA was now presenting their side of the story.  They had not been given the opportunity to state their case previously.  A partnership must deal with the issue.  The IAAF was being too clever.  They had taken the problem into the country.  ASA could not refuse the IAAF entry.

The Chairperson said that the issue of the apology was not a proposal.  The Committee was making a clear and unambiguous statement.  The President of the IAAF must first apologise before visiting South Africa.  He should not have communicated with Pres Zuma.  The Committee would be at OR Thambo International Airport and would make life unpleasant for the IAAF President if the apology were not forthcoming.

Mr Chuene said that he was not trying to justify the breach of confidentiality.  The IAAF had made a conscious announcement on the matter.  This was where the problem had started.  It did not come from the clinic.  Some people were privy to the secrets.  He defended the issue of confidentiality.  Someone’s life was at stake.  They could have stuck to a “No comment” policy.  He believed the main issue was that nobody knew anything.

Mr Chuene said that ASA would respond to any organisation.  They would talk to anybody.  It was South African sport at issue not ANC sport.  The Citizen had reported on the alleged disappearance of R10 million in ASA funds.  To date not a single cent had been proved to be missing.  He had no need to apologise.  There was a procedure for testing before competition that had not been followed.  It was an IAAF event, not an ASA competition.  The IAAF would have had to disqualify her under their own rules.  He would not do this.  The IAAF position had been reached without any facts to justify it.  The child was being sacrificed.

The Chairperson asked on what basis Dr Adams had offered the opinion that she should not run.  All the information in the media had gone through him.

Mr Chuene said that ASA had held two Council meetings.  Some people did not want the accept ASA’s decision.  People who had not wanted to accept this had walked out of the meeting and talked to the media.  As he was affected he had not been in the chair.  Dissident provinces could have introduced a motion of no confidence but had instead played to the media.  They were making athletics ungovernable. 

Mr Chuene said that tow of the medallists were from rural areas and the other from the townships.  This was inspiring to children from humble backgrounds.  It was no longer a matter concerning Ms Semenya.  The dealings with the media had been wrong, but he would still defend her.  He had been called a liar and other things.  He would answer the questions on what should have been done.  Gender verification tests were not done in Berlin as IAAF rules preclude this kind of testing during competitions.  He pointed out that the Championships continued after the 800-metre race.  ASA was not castigating Mr Daniels, but it was not right that he ran off and told his story to the media.  There were many forums to address the issue.  Long before Dr Adams had made his revelations the SASCOC President had sent Mr Chuene a test message about the resignation of Mr Daniels.  It was within SASCOC’s statute to deal with ASA.  They were vocal parties.  There had been a number of questions around the censuring of the Gauteng Cricket Board by Cricket South Africa.  He asked when people would agree that ASA were doing the right thing.  Sponsors were driven by public opinion.

Mr Britz said that gender tests as a norm were abolished in the mid 1990’s.  They were only conducted in exceptional cases.  It was an IAAF policy document and was not in their constitution.  The trigger was the submission of an official complaint.  No complaint had been received from fellow athletes or any other body whose complaint would be recognised by the policy document.  ASA could not conduct tests on behalf of the IAAF.  To the best of his knowledge this was the first time that a South African athlete had been tested.  Prior to the change of policy in the 1990’s all female athletes were tested as a matter of course.

Mr Britz said that all athletes were still expected to undergo dope testing both in and out of competition.  Ms Semenya had been tested twice during the event in Mauritius.  These were done under medical supervision.  In fact she had been tested many times during her career.  There had never been a problem.  Further gender verification tests were done in Berlin.  It was a fallacy that ASA had ignored medical advice.  A doctor was sent with every national team.  The doctor would advise the team manager if the athlete would prejudice his or her health by competing.  Dr Adams had given his advice to withdraw on grounds other than medical ones.  His advice was based on the verbal feedback from the doctor he had had appointed to test Ms Semenya.

The Chairperson asked how a team doctor would communicate his or her medical opinion on the fitness of an athlete.

Mr Britz said that the doctor would issue a medical certificate.  This would be submitted to the LOC.  The manager would discuss the issue with the doctor and he doubted that the manager would not follow the doctor’s advice.

Dr VS Dlamini (Board Member, ASA) said that there was as yet no report on the test.  South Africans were wrangling over the matter and unity was being broken down.  Members of the three dissident provinces had come together and tabled a recommendation that the Board should resign.  Even if they had given all the facts the dissident provinces would not trust them.  The Board members were made out to be liars because they were hiding something.  Some of the e-mails which had not been made public referred to a black girl running fast.  The whole issue had arisen because Ms Semenya had broken a record set by Zola Budd. There were still many racists about.

Dr Dlamini said that there were people who wanted to knock Mr Chuene down.  He had held a high position on the ASA Board himself but had now reverted to being an ordinary Board member due to other commitments.  There was no clash between himself and Mr Chuene.  ASA was happy to appear before the Committee, as this was the highest level of accountability.

Dr Dlamini said that ASA followed its constitution.  It had never faltered with the correct usage on national symbols and anthem.  The Chef du Mission had a mandate to take care of the team and would not react to verbal instructions.  Faking an injury would not be allowed because of unsubstantiated advice.  All Board members were bound to endorse teams.  This discussion could last up to five days.  No one had ever doubted the gender of Ms Semenya.  He had heard news that the IAAF was coming together to define a hermaphrodite.  This process would take a year to complete.  It would be a sad day if the three dissident provinces broke away from ASA.

The Chairperson said that it was not the provinces that were responsible.

Dr Dlamini said that he did not know what the fate of the people would be if the provinces did break away.  He wanted to know more about the question of Coloured nationalism.  The Western Cape produced few black athletes.  Teams should be inclusive.  Provinces were not being vigorous enough in identifying such athletes.

The Chairperson said that it was a painful experience to listen to the debate on the radio.  Coloured nationalism would be a recipe for disaster.  He would never support debate on colour issues.  Interaction should be on the basis of federations rather than individuals.  ASA had heard what the parties had said.  The whole nation had celebrated the swimming world record achieved at the 2004 Olympics.  Qatar had tried to coax one of the swimmers to accept their citizenship for money, but he had declined.  The Committee praised this decision.  He wished to see a programme to honour the success of all the athletes.  The country came to a standstill to celebrate the triumphs of codes like cricket and rugby.  South Africans must stop being negative about themselves.  He requested Mr Chuene to stop the talk show and get on with the matter of healing the bleeding spot.

Mr Lee said that he would speak to any leader.  That was why he had written the letter requesting the meeting with Mr Chuene.  When the new Parliament had been formed he had written to all federations to introduce himself and Mr van der Linde.  He suggested that ASA must propose an amendment to the IAAF’s policy to stop gender verification tests.  This was the only way to address the situation.  This would be a monument to Ms Semenya.  He admitted that the ANC had a right to demand an apology from the IAAF President.  However, he could not support the demand that this be a pre-condition to him entering the country.  The IAAF had acted incorrectly but the ANC’s demand would be sending the wrong signals.

Mr McGluwa said that there was a perception that ASA had asked a particular party for protection after the revelations were made.  The trio of medallists should be invited to Parliament so that they could be formally congratulated.

Mr MacKenzie noted the three militant sub regions.  Geraldine Pillay had also organised a meeting of dissidents.  It was now time to heal the wounds.  ASA was being brought into international disrepute.

The Chairperson said that ASA must engage with the dissidents as people and with the regions.

Ms Tseke said there was a need to mobilise.  She would condemn the actions of Ms Pillay if they led to division on a racial basis.  She wondered if there was a possibility that the request to withdraw Ms Semenya was not match fixing.  She commended Mr Chuene on the direction ASA had taken.  Athletics was one of the most transformed sports.  They had fought battles with SASCOC.

Mr Suka was not comfortable.  A person on the council had been identified.  This could not be tampered with.  He asked if the doctor was untouchable if the IAAF perceived his actions as wrong.  The President of the IAAF could not be given a blank cheque when he came to South Africa.  He asked ASA to celebrate the success of the athletes in all nine provinces.

Mr Dikgacwi declared that the ANC would not reverse its proposal.  From this point on the media should concentrate on highlighting positive aspects.

Mr Dhlamini asked what ASA was doing for the athlete.  He understood that lawyers surrounded her.  The Minister had devised protective measures.

The Chairperson said this was wrong.  Ms Semenya was the responsibility of ASA.  A lawyer had been found to deny Committee Members access to her, but he had managed to meet with her in Pretoria.  There could never be a buffer between her and the Committee.  He asked how people could talk to athletes in the absence of ASA.  SRSA could not stop this, as she was a product of ASA.

Mr Chuene emphasised that South African interests should be put first.

The Chairperson said that SASCOC had no funds that it could withhold from ASA.  Their mission was to prepare South African teams at a high performance level.  The Committee had made funds available to SASCOC, as they had no income of their own.  SRSA was responsible for lottery allocations.  Funds could not be withheld to punish a federation.

Mr Komphela said that the public discourse was damaging the child.  The media must refrain from further stories.  The cloud of insult must be allowed to subside.  She should be allowed to celebrate her success and her womanhood. 

The Chairperson said that the Committee would meet with splinter groups as athletes.  The right of association applied, and they should be allowed to leave ASA if they chose to do so.  He agreed that athletes should be brought to the House to celebrate their success.

Mr Komphela said that ASA must negotiate substantial sponsors.  Nedbank was a harbour for reactionaries who had fled Pres Mugabe’s regime.  These reactionaries had been caught napping when South Africa had also been taken over by a black Government.  It was not a bank to write home about.

The Chairperson said that the ANC was serious.  The IAAF President would not be allowed to meet with the President of South Africa.  He asked if Mr Blatter was the equal of a state president.  The IAAF had first to apologise for the damage it had caused.  They were the hosts of the Championships and were therefore responsible.  ASA was only a member of IAAF.  Even if the tests proved negative for Ms Semenya she should be allowed to keep her medal.  Nedbank’s decision to cancel their sponsorship was an economic limiting move. Young athletes were being put in jeopardy.  An important lesson had been learnt.

Mr Chuene fully agreed with the Chairperson’s comments.  He made a humble request that the Committee write to SASCOC and instruct them to cancel their investigation.

The Chairperson said that he would hear what the basis of the investigation was.  If there were a dispute then the Minister would appoint an independent adjudicator.  A better image must be projected.  The Committee needed to speak with Dr Adams to hear his side of the story.

The meeting was adjourned.
 

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