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DA: Statement by Donald Lee, Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Sport, on Caster Semenya (26/10/2009)

26th October 2009


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I will this week write to the Speaker of Parliament and the ANC Chief Whip, to request that Mr Butana Komphela be suspended as chairperson of the portfolio committee on sport and recreation, with regard to all deliberations concerning Caster Semenya. It is reported that the document compiled by Athletics South Africa (ASA) team doctor Harold Adams states that Leonard Chuene consulted with "top-level politicians" before deciding to enter Caster Semenya into the field at the World Athletics Championships. According to Mr. Adams, one of those consulted was allegedly Mr Komphela. This is the equivalent of Pieter de Villiers phoning the Minister of Sport to ask whom he should select for the next rugby test. If true, it demonstrates a flagrant disregard for his role, and has several profound implications for his ability to provide the necessary oversight on this matter. If untrue, Mr Komphela needs to clarify the situation immediately. His silence to date suggests he does not dispute the facts as have been reported. The consequences of Mr Komphela's possible intervention are numerous:
• First, he would be complicit in the decision to field Caster Semenya. This was clearly a political decision, taken in direct contravention of the advice of the team doctor. The consequences of that were profound, both for Caster Semenya herself and for Mr Chuene. This sort of interference is deeply problematic; indeed, the IAAF has acted before to suspend those countries in which politicians meddle in the affairs of athletics federations. Mr Komphela needs to explain his role and, on what grounds he saw fit to overrule a team doctor. In short, Mr Komphela himself has a case to answer before the committee.
• Second, the Democratic Alliance has called for ASA, Harold Adams and Wilfred Daniels to be brought before the portfolio committee, to explain their actions in general and those of Mr Chuene in particular. This is the committee's core function: providing oversight. However, it cannot do that if the person overseeing that meeting is complicit in the problem it is interrogating. His neutrality and objectivity is compromised. For this reason he would have to recuse himself.
• Third, it is not just Mr Komphela who is implicated. According to the report, several other senior ANC officials were consulted. It is the responsibility of the Chairperson to call these people to appear before the committee. If he is involved and has an interest in concealing his actions or protecting the reputation of those he reports to, not only is he unlikely to call those people to appear, but he will be unable to properly interrogate them when they appear before the committee.
I will be making all these points to the Speaker and the ANC Chief Whip, who cannot, in good faith, allow Mr Komphela to continue in his position with regards to this matter. This whole affair reveals the ANC's administration for what it is, and it can be fairly summerised as follows: For years the ANC government neglected South African sport, it imposed quotas on our country's athletes and fiddled the numbers instead of investing money in the development of our sportsmen and sportswomen. This manifested in increasingly poor international performances and a smaller and smaller pool of talented athletes, until ASA and the government were faced with a situation at Berlin, where both were so hard pressed to secure a medal, that they went as far as to ignore the recommendations of a team doctor, and jeopardise the career of a young South African athlete. The consequences of this for Caster Semenya have been cruel and vicious, and yet neither of the two principal parties involved in the decision to put her in harms way, in pursuit of their own political objectives, have been open or honest with her or the South African public in this regard. Both should be ashamed.



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