Miss SA snubs govt calls to boycott Miss Universe in Israel
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Beauty contest in Eilat next month

Miss SA snubs govt calls to boycott Miss Universe in Israel

Miss South Africa winner Lalela Mswane insists she will take part in Miss Universe in Eilat.
Miss South Africa winner Lalela Mswane insists she will take part in Miss Universe in Eilat.

THE South African government said on Sunday it was dissociating itself from a decision by the reigning Miss SA to take part in the annual Miss Universe pageant in Israel.

The decision came after growing calls for the reigning Miss South Africa to boycott the event over what government officials said were Israel’s “atrocities against Palestinians”.

Local beauty pageant organisers have been adamant that the recently crowned Miss SA Lalela Mswane should go.

“It has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event,” the arts and culture ministry said in a statement.

The government therefore said it “withdraws its support” following the organisers’ “intransigence”.

The pageant featuring entrants from around the world is set to be held in Eilat on December 12.

“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,” the government said.

South Africa has taken a hardline stance against Israel and staunchly supports the Palestinians. It downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and pulled out its ambassador.

Forging ahead could “prove disastrous to her [Mswane’s] future and public standing as a young, black woman,” warned Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

In a statement, the ruling ANC party urged organisers “to hear and listen to the overwhelming call for the Miss South Africa team to boycott the upcoming apartheid Israel hosted Miss Universe”.

Miss SA pageant organisers had last week argued the Miss Universe pageant is not a “politically inspired event”.

“We all know that boycotting is not necessarily going to be the way that we are going to make a substantial difference. I truly don’t believe not attending and not being able to showcase or use one’s voice and being in that country is going to be the right thing,” Stephanie Weil, CEO of the Miss South Africa pageant, told South African radio host Clement Manyathela, according to the county’s Eye Witness News.

The contest, the first ever held in Israel, will feature a contestant from the United Arab Emirates for the first time, and a contestant from Morocco for the first time in decades. Both of those countries signed diplomatic normalisation agreements with Israel in 2020.

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