9 February 2005

Zimbabwe: Top Female Athlete Turns Out to Be Male

Harare — IN one of the biggest scandals to rock Zimbabwean sport, a male athlete, Samukeliso Sithole, masqueraded as a female and represented the country in international events raking in millions of dollars.

The discovery of the deception has left authorities baffled.

Sithole's female friend has since filed crimen injuria charges against the top Zimbabwe and Lancashire Steel Athletics Club runner after she undressed in his full view being under the impression that he was a woman like her.

The athlete was immediately arrested by Mbizo police on being found out following which he was arraigned before Kwekwe magistrate Mrs Siphathimisiwe Makuvaza on February 4 on two counts of crimen injuria and impersonation.

The State, led by Mr Tapfumaneyi Michael Nkonde, will allege that on January 14 2005, Sithole of 175 Lancashire Steel Compound, dressed as a woman, befriended Ms Melita Mudondiro of 124/9 Mbizo in Kwekwe.

It is further alleged that on the same day, Sithole visited Ms Mudondiro at her residence.

When he entered the house, Ms Mudondiro was in a state of nudity or semi-nudity, but was not moved or alarmed by Sithole's presence as her "new friend" had led her to believe that he was female.

On January 15 2005, the accused purporting to be a female, went back to Ms Mudondiro's Mbizo house again in a female attire. The complainant undressed in the presence of the accused and then went to bath.

All along she was under the impression that Sithole was a woman because of his feminine features and dressing.

The complainant returned from the bathroom wrapped in a towel and entered her bedroom where the accused was seated. She unwrapped herself and remained naked in full view of the accused.

She later dressed up in the presence of the complainant and they were later joined by three friends - Chipo Nyoni, Violet Chinyere and Comfort Chigayo.

The State alleges that the five "friends" left Ms Mudondiro's house for the railway station where they intended to board a train to Bulawayo to attend an athletics meeting in the city.

On arrival at the station, the five friends were met by a Mr Mkandla, who informed the women that their "friend" Sithole was not female, but was actually a man.

On hearing this, the accused, like the athlete he is, took to his heels, but was chased and caught by Mr Mkandla, who handed him over to the police.

He was taken to Kwekwe General Hospital where a doctor who examined him confirmed that he was indeed a man.

The State will also allege that Sithole impaired the dignity of a female friend.

He was remanded to March 3 for trial.

Prosecutor Mr Nkonde said the court had found it difficult in deciding whether to remand Sithole in custody in male or female cells as he was adamant that he was a woman yet the doctor's report had revealed he was a man.

In his defence, Sithole told the court that he was born with both female and male organs. The athlete added that his parents then consulted a Chipinge traditional healer who gave them some herbs following which he assumed female status.

However, Sithole further alleges that they only paid half the money charged for the services rendered by the healer. As a punishment by the traditional healer for them to pay up the outstanding bill, the male organ only developed recently, he said.

He told the court that he was scheduled to settle the bill with the traditional on his trial day and this would have resulted in him reverting to the female gender.

The top Zimbabwean athlete told the court that he had a boyfriend.

Sithole is a successful athlete and has in the past few years amassed a lot of wealth and bought several undeveloped stands and properties in Kwekwe, according to court officials.

He also bought several beasts with his earnings from athletics.

Sithole competed in international events as a female. The athlete, who is multi-talented, competed in triple jump, javelin, shot-putt and running grabbing gold and silver medals.

The athlete's latest escapade was when he took part in the Southern Region Championships in Botswana in June and won the only gold medal for Zimbabwe.

Dubbed a field events specialist by Radio Mauritius, he scooped five medals at the youth championship in that country last year.

Court officials said they had never come across such a case before.

The National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, which, as the governing body of the sporting discipline, sanctioned Sithole's trips, said they were still investigating the matter.

At home, Sithole made history last year when he scooped five gold medals and a bronze in long jump, shot-putt, javelin, high jump and 400m hurdles at provincial youth championships in Masvingo competing as a female.

Sithole, a product of rural athletics, was brought to Kwekwe after he was identified in Silobela.

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