24 August 2009

South Africa: President Zuma to Meet Medalists

Pretoria — President Jacob Zuma is expected to meet the country's World Athletics Championships medalists on Tuesday, the Presidency has announced.

The meeting will see the President congratulating the 18-year-old 800m gold medalist Caster Semenya, men's 800m gold medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, and the men's long jump silver medalist Kgotso Mokoena.

The athletes are expected to arrive at the OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday morning after competing in the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) tournament in Berlin, Germany.

A press conference will be held at the airport to welcome the athletes, thereafter, they will be taken to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where President Zuma will welcome them.

Caster's masculine build and her rapid improvements in performance have led to doubts about her gender.

However, the South African public and various sectors have expressed outrage at the allegations, with even government ministers speaking out against the controversy.

Commission for Employment Equity chairperson Jimmy Manyi added his voice to the outage on Monday.

"Why can't society accept black competence? I want to express utter disgust at how the matter has been handled," Mr Manyi said.

On Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said South Africans should give Caster a heroine's welcome when she touches down.

"To us, Caster is simply the best 800m woman World champion and must be given a heroine's welcome upon return to South Africa on Tuesday," the minister said in a statement.

"All of us South Africans, especially women, must rally around Caster and reject with the contempt it deserves the insinuations being made about her gender," she said, adding that Caster deserved the support of the nation against the "onslaught" waged against her.

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