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Girls will be boys

The Health Minister launches Child Health Week. South Africa will not meet its HIV treatment goals due to lack of funds. Runner Caster Semenya allegedly possesses both male and female sex organs. South Africa's rugby team is hailed as one of the best squads ever. The government launches its first satellite. The Communist party chief buys a BMW with taxpayer money. Cosatu, the trade union, berates Eskom for giving its CEO a raise while workers are protesting. The government asserts that it will meet its promise of creating 500,000 jobs. Also, carrier pigeons are faster than South Africa's Internet service.

Top News: South Africa’s new health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, launched Child Health Week, a program of immunization, growth monitoring and nutritional supplements for children across South Africa. The program, which actually lasts two weeks, is a welcome recognition by health authorities that something needs to be done. However, health experts say efforts to improve child mortality rates should focus on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and postnatal care.


Motsoaledi also admitted that South Africa would fail to reach its previously stated goal in terms of HIV treatment and would not cover 80 percent of HIV-infected South Africans by 2011, in part because of a shortage of funds. Motsoaledi said currently only half of the targeted number has been reached.


The endless saga of Caster Semenya, the masculine-looking female world champion runner, reached a new high when Australian media leaked a report that apparently shows she has both male and female sexual organs. Athletics South Africa, whose president has vehemently criticized international athletics authorities and international media for violating Semenya’s privacy, may have authorized gender tests without the athlete’s consent. Former track star Carl Lewis and South Africa’s government said ASA let Semenya down. In a rare interview, Semenya also appeared in South Africa’s “You Magazine” sporting high heels, dresses and hair extensions.


Julius Malema, the vociferous president of the African National Congress Youth League, had lashed out at white South Africans for failing to welcome Semenya at Johannesburg’s airport a couple of weeks ago, but he was nowhere to be found as South Africa’s rugby team came back from a triumphant tour of New Zealand and Australia. The Springboks are fanatically supported by whites, but are now coached by a black coach and include more and more black players. President Zuma and others have hailed the team as one of the best rugby squads ever.


Using a Russian Soyuz rocket, South Africa launched SumbandilaSat, the country’s first government-owned satellite. The launch, which was postponed twice, is the latest demonstration of South Africa’s relatively small, but growing, space ambition. The country is also working on a large radio telescope in its Karoo desert and is bidding against Australia for an even larger telescope, the Square Kilometer Array.


Is the head of the South African Communist Party still a Communist? Blade Nzimande, the new minister of higher education had to reaffirm his allegiance to Karl Marx’s The Capital after his purchase of an expensive BMW with taxpayer money. His party defended the move, saying the car included necessary security features, but the purchase was strongly criticized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), usually a strong ally of the Communist Party and the ruling ANC. For various reasons, several ministers at the national and provincial levels have recently found themselves in the spotlight for buying fancy cars at a time when most South Africans see their standards of living declining.


Money: Shortly after reporting a huge yearly loss, embattled public utility Eskom attracted the wrath of Cosatu, the trade union federation, for giving a generous raise to its chief executive, Jacob Maroga, at a time when regular workers have to take to the streets to receive above-inflation wage increases. In a rare instance of measure, the ANC Youth League put its support behind the electricity company, saying the pay increase was justified.


South Africa’s public works minister said the government is still on track to create the 500,000 jobs President Zuma announced earlier this year. About 83,900 positions were created between April and June.


The International Monetary Fund said South Africa’s economy is scheduled to shrink 2.1 percent this year. The negative growth forecast is slightly more optimistic than another IMF estimate earlier this year. South Africa’s economy, which is the continent’s largest, entered its first recession in 17 years as a result of the global economic slowdown.


The latest figures from South Africa’s statistics agency showed that manufacturing output fell 13.7 percent in July, an improvement over the previous month’s number of 17.1 percent, and that mining activity rose 4.8 percent.


Elsewhere: A South African scientist suggested that Brandon Huntley, the white South African who initially got refugee status from Canadian authorities for allegedly being targeted by black criminals for the color of his skin, is actually of mixed race. Separately, the Star, a South African newspaper, contributed to the local media campaign to demonstrate South Africa’s appeal by finding a Canadian expatriate who absolutely loves living in Cape Town.


South Africa’s Internet speed is notoriously slow, but slower than a bird? A local IT enterprise demonstrated that it was faster to attach a memory card with a large document to a carrier pigeon, send the bird to a nearby town and download the document than email the file using South African Telkom’s Internet service.