10 July 2005

Zimbabwe: Athlete Samukeliso Sithole Remanded in Custody

Kwekwe — Controversial athlete Samukeliso Sithole, who is facing six counts of crimen injuria, was remanded in custody until Tuesday, when "she" appeared before Kwekwe provincial magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso last week.

The Kwekwe-based athlete was arrested in January, following reports by some female runners that the athlete had "impaired their dignity".

In one of the charges, the State is alleging that on 14 January 2005, Sithole befriended Mudondiro of 124/9 Mbizo, in Kwekwe.

It also alleges that on that day, Sithole visited Mudondiro, who was under the impression that the new friend was female. When the athlete entered the house "she" found Mudondiro in a state of undress.

Another allegation is that on 15 January, Sithole went to the complainant's home and found her undressing, as she was about to take a bath.

Luck ran out for Sithole when a security guard at the Kwekwe Railway Station - who claimed to know "her" from Silobela as Mduduzi Ngwenya - alerted athletes who were travelling to Bulawayo for competition of the runner's true sex.

This revelation triggered an outcry among the female athletes who then made a report to the police, leading to Sithole's arrest.

The State, led by public prosecutor Tapfumaneyi Nkonde, produced two doctors' reports as evidence that the athlete was male.

The State also called in as witnesses, four female runners, who are laying charges against Sithole, as well as the security guard who blew the whistle on Sithole.

Sithole is denying all the allegations, including claims by the guard that the name "she" is using actually "belongs" to a neighbour's daughter. Under cross-examination, the athlete said "her" female organs had "disappeared" because "she" owed a traditional healer $5million and that the healer is responsible for thesex-change.

Samukeliso had the court in stitches after offering to call in boyfriends with whom "she" had "normal" sexual relations.

The athlete, who won eight medals - seven gold and one silver - in regional women's competitions, is also on remand after being accused of stealing 48 bars of brown washing soap, one pair of blue jeans, 10 kg of sugar, four audio cassettes, a white T-shirt and $100 000 from a Gweru boyfriend, Vincent Ncube.

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