JOHANNESEBURG — The South African government says it is dissociating itself from a decision by the reigning Miss South Africa to take part in the annual Miss Universe in Israel.
The decision came after growing calls for the reigning Miss South Africa to boycott the pageant over alleged Israeli rights violations against Palestinians.
Local beauty pageant organizers have been adamant that the recently crowned Miss SA Lalela Mswane should go.
“It has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organizers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event,” the arts and culture ministry says in a statement.
The government therefore “withdraws its support,” following the organizers’ “intransigence.”
The pageant is slated to be held in the Red Sea resort town of 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 ministry says.
South Africa backs the Palestinian cause, with formal diplomatic relations established in 1995, a year after the end of apartheid.
It downgraded its embassy in Tel Aviv in 2019 and pulled out its ambassador.
Miss SA pageant organizers last week argued that the Miss Universe pageant is not a “politically inspired event.”
Forging ahead could “prove disastrous to her (Mswane’s) future and public standing as a young, black woman,” warns Arts Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
In a statement, the ruling ANC party urged the organizers “to hear and listen to the overwhelming call for the Miss South Africa team to boycott the upcoming apartheid Israel hosted Miss Universe.”