'What is hermaphrodite in Pedi?'

By Time of article published Oct 2, 2009

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By Beauregard Tromp, Nontobeko Mtshali, Bronwyn Gerretsen, Xolani Mbanjwa and Sapa

Julius Malema may be too young to know there is a word for hermaphrodite in sePedi, his home language.

At a press conference to voice the ANCYL's support for embattled Athletics South Africa (ASA) boss Leonard Chuene on Thursday, Malema berated the international athletics body and the media for referring to Caster Semenya as a hermaphrodite, a word for which he said there is no equivalent in sePedi.

"Hermaphrodite, what is that? Somebody tell me, what is hermaphrodite in Pedi? There's no such thing, hermaphrodite, in Pedi.

"So don't impose your hermaphrodite concepts on us.

"You are either a woman or a man. When a child is born you are announcing it's a baby girl or a baby boy. We have never heard in the village a child being projected: 'we are given a hermaphrodite'. There's never been such a thing in the village we come from."

But a sePedi expert from Wits University on Friday insisted the sePedi has a word for hermaphrodite: "setabane".

"He doesn't know. Shame hey, he's still young. I wish he could get some lessons from the old geezers," said Thelma Tshesane, a senior tutor at Wits Language School.

"These words were hidden from the children as they grow. I heard it from my granny," said Tshesane. "It's offensive in my culture. It's a derogatory term. "

World 800m champion Caster Semenya was labelled a hermaphrodite in Australian media which supposedly had had sight of International Athletics Association Federation test results.

Semenya was subjected to gender testing shortly before winning gold in the world chmpionships in Berlin.

Malema also called on society to "teach Nedbank a lesson" after its withdrawal of its sponsorship of ASA.

He said the bank had used the controversy surrounding Semenya's sex as an excuse to hide its "real agenda".

The real reason Nedbank had withdrawn its sponsorship was because it was disappointed that the three medals won by South Africans at the world championships in August were won by blacks, he said.

Malema was addressing students at Mangosuthu Technikon in Umlazi, Durban.

Nedbank said yesterday its dissatisfaction with the quality of delivery by ASA of some events in the Nedbank City Marathon and Matha Series over the past few years was well known, and that negotiations to end its sponsorship had begun "well before the current saga".

Malema said Nedbank was using the controversy over how Chuene handled the Semenya sex tests as an excuse.

"Why should athletics in South Africa suffer because they (Nedbank) hate an individual? They mustn't use Chuene as an excuse. We must expose their real agenda: that is that Nedbank is disappointed because medals were won by three Africans.

"Let them withdraw, and we must teach them a lesson because we are their customers."

He added that sponsorship was about performance and not about "who did what".

"This is a girl with a world record, but she does not have a sponsor," said Malema.

He also said Semenya must be allowed to compete as a girl. "In South Africa, in the villages, we only have boys and girls. A child is a boy or a girl.

"They can argue about this being determined scientifically, but in the villages we don't see signs, we don't have laboratories. When a child is born, we open its legs and that is the sign we use."

"The imperialists must not impose this on us if they have hermaphrodites where they come from. They must enjoy living with their hermaphrodites, because in South Africa there are no hermaphrodites."

Malema aslo rebuked the ANC for demanding that action be taken against Chuene.

But ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe defended the position of the national executive committee. He told The Star yesterday he differed with Malema's view that the ANC should not interfere in sport.

"You can't have normal sports in an abnormal society.

"You can't have a separation of sports which is part of social development and say it is a no-go area for politics.

"It doesn't work that way," he said.

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