Govt withdraws support for Miss SA ahead of Miss Universe pageant in Israel

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Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane will represent the country at the 70th edition of the Miss Universe pageant in December.
Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane will represent the country at the 70th edition of the Miss Universe pageant in December.
Photo: Supplied by Miss South Africa
  • The government has withdrawn its support for the Miss South Africa pageant.
  • The decision comes after it was unable to convince organisers to boycott the Miss Universe pageant.
  • The government wants to boycott the Miss Universe pageant because it is being held in Israel, which is accused of committing atrocities against Palestinians.

The government has withdrawn its support for the Miss South Africa pageant after it was unable to convince organisers to pull out of the Miss Universe pageant which will be held in Israel in December.

In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Sports, Art and Culture announced it would no longer support the pageant because of Miss South Africa organisers's "intransigence and disregard" of advice against sending Miss SA Lalela Mswane to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.

"Following unsuccessful consultations initiated by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, 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 read.

"What, during initial consultations, appeared like engaging, constructive and progressive discussions was later met with an unpleasant demeanour that is intransigent and lacking appreciation of the potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman."

The department said atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians were well documented and the government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, "could not in good conscience associate itself with such".

READ | Calls grow louder for South Africa to boycott Miss Universe


It added it appreciated the individual interests of Mswane and the impact it would have on her if she withdrew from competing in Miss Universe, but the reasons, which required withdrawal, far outweighed individual interests.

Sport, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said:

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.

"Our first preference was to try and find each other so as to issue a joint media statement. This has regrettably been unsuccessful, hence the decision now to publicly distance government and the people of South Africa from Miss SA pageant organiser's stance on this matter.

"But even so, we still hope some common sense will prevail in the interest of the reigning queen, Lalela Mswane, and we remain open for discussions in that regard," he added.

Earlier this week, Channel24 reported calls for South Africa to boycott Miss Universe had grown louder.

READ | Palestinian civil rights organisations warn Miss SA against condoning apartheid Israel

Former president Nelson Mandela's grandson, Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, was one such voice, who released a statement saying "Israel is an apartheid state and we will continue to mobilise all freedom loving people of the world to boycott, divest and pass sanctions against the brutal apartheid regime".

In an Instagram post, the Palestine solidarity organisation said: "… now that the Miss South Africa company/organisation is intending on still proceeding with travelling to Israel, we thus have no option but to embark on a vigilant campaign, including protest actions to reject this sellout position [sic]".
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