JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — 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 in Israel.
The decision came after growing calls for the reigning Miss South Africa to boycott the pageant over what government officials said were Israel’s “atrocities 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 said in a statement.
The government therefore said it “withdraws its support” following the organizers’ “intransigence.”
The pageant is slated for Eilat, Israel on December 12.
Congratulations to Our Miss South Africa 2021 @Lalela_lali!
It's time to claim your power!
— Miss South Africa (@Official_MissSA) October 16, 2021
“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.
Miss SA pageant organizers had last week argued 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,” warned 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.”