Yep, I am afraid that is the question that has been going through my mind for the last week or so. Would there be such a furore if she had been white? I think not. That is to say, there would not have been such sputterings from the sports minister and Reverend Stofile has threatened world war three. Fascinating, irreverent hyperbole coming from a man of the Christian cloth. His remark was so reminiscent of the empty bravado of dictators like Idi Amin and Saddam “mother of all wars” Hussein, not to mention a wannabe but ne’er-will-be dictator like Eugene Terre’blanche who was justly found guilty of assaulting a black man. ET stood up and blustered, “Nou het die oorlog begin!” Now the war has begun.

Uncannily similar statements suggesting full frontal lobotomies have taken place, no? I truly feel for this young lady, Ms Semenya. According to the Australian medical report she has no womb or ovaries, and has inner testes which boost her testosterone count and thus may arguably give her an unfair advantage. Or so the claim goes. Be honest, was anyone out there surprised by the alleged reports, given Ms Semenya’s facticity? Inevitably, drearily and irresponsibly, the SA sports bodies and many SA people are crying foul as it is merely racism. Of course it is not racism and the case is not as simple as that. Let us look at the simple facts. Ms Semenya has a strapping figure, and to be perfectly frank, like many people, if I had not known who she was, when I first saw pictures of her I would have sworn I was looking at a powerful, good-looking young man who I would not want to throw a fist at me. I wouldn’t mind rugby ball biceps and rippling shoulders like that. The cover of YOU magazine? I would have thought that was a man in drag. I asked the ladies in my office here in China to look at the cover of YOU and they thought so too. The cover of YOU comes across as a case of special pleading to convince the world she is a woman — in the wrong way.

She is not “traditionally feminine” or petite, not by a long chalk. The request for testing is not unreasonable even though gender verification was stopped in 2000. But the most important issue, to me, is, how about Ms Semenya’s feelings on the matter? I feel she should be the first to be allowed to decide what her gender is, as medically, allegedly, she has traits of both sexes. She has decided she is a woman because that is how she naturally feels about it. That should be respected. Therefore the claim that she should be disqualified from winning should be dismissed. However, her future wins and the current one will be soured as too many people will not be happy (including athletes) with her competing because of the hermaphroditic medical evidence and the unfair advantage.

Rather like my piece on Brandon Huntley, I am not so much interested in whether or not Caster Semenya should be disqualified. I am more interested in the response of South Africans, particularly the mass cry of racism and various leaders. Instead of letting fair law be applied and acknowledging that gender verification is a complex matter, the issue is reduced to one of racism. So what message is South Africa sending to the world about how it deals with delicate, complex matters? The picture of a self-destructing sledgehammer where a scalpel is required is what comes to mind. South Africans continue to polarise themselves over accusations of racism, where there are none. It just deepens the rifts and sends a bad message to the international community.


  • CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg Star: " Mackenzie's writing is shot through with humour and there are many laugh-out-loud scenes". Cracking China is available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle or get a hard copy from His previous book is a collection of poetry,Gathering Light. A born and bred South African, Rod now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, after a number of years working in southern mainland China and a stint in England. Under the editorship of David Bullard and Michael Trapido he had a column called "The Mocking Truth" on NewsTime until the newszine folded. He has a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland. if you are a big, BIG publisher you should ask to see one of his many manuscript novels. Follow Rod on Twitter @


Rod MacKenzie

CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg...

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