South Africa shuns beauty queen for refusing boycott of Miss Universe in Israel

Calls grow for Miss South Africa to boycott event in show of support for Palestinians

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 16 November 2021 10:34 GMT
Miss South Africa has been urged by pro-Palestine supporters to boycott Miss Universe pageant in Israel next month

The South African government has withdrawn its support for Miss South Africa after the pageant organisers refused to pull out of next month’s Miss Universe contest in Israel, despite calls for a boycott to show support for Palestinians.

The move comes after pro-Palestine groups demanded that Lalela Mswane, who was crowned Miss South Africa in October, and the Miss South Africa organisers cancel their participation in protest against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The appeal to boycott the pageant has also gained support from country’s the ruling African National Congress party and several trade union groups.

In a statement on Sunday, South Africa’s Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture said: “It has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021.”

The statement added: “The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and Government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.”

South Africa has a long history supporting the Palestinian people. The country holds Israel’s treatment of Palestinians similar to the experience of apartheid faced by Black South Africans.

It established diplomatic relations with Palestine in 1995, a year after apartheid ended. In 2019, South Africa pulled its ambassadors from Tel Aviv while downgrading its embassy.

Israel denies it maintains an apartheid policy against Palestinians.

In its statement on Sunday, the South African government said that participating in the pageant, taking place in Eilat on 12 December, would go against Ms Mswane’s own interests.

“If anything, by withdrawing, Miss South Africa’s reputation and overall standing will be far more advanced in South Africa and internationally in comparison to a once off event that can prove disastrous to her future and public standing as a young, black woman,” said Nathi Mthethwa, Minister for Sport, Arts and Culture.

The pageant organisers and Ms Mswane did not respond to Reuters calls for a comment.

The beauty pageant organisers, however, had said earlier that the decision to participate in the contest was taken as Miss Universe is not a political event.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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