Government pulls plug on Miss SA over Israel
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CAPE TOWN - As it mimics a painful past when black South Africans were not allowed to participate in competitions including under the Miss South Africa title, the government has withdrawn its support for the Miss Universe pageant expected to take place in Israel next month.
Current reigning Miss SA Lalela Mswane is expected to participate in the pageant, with the SA organisers repeatedly saying they are “not a political organisation”, and therefore would not heed calls for a boycott.
But Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa said that following unsuccessful consultations it had proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to participate in Miss Universe.
“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 atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and the government, as the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself with such. In an attempt to demonstrate what partaking in Miss Universe means for South Africans and many others across the world, the Miss SA pageant organisers were referred to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s views following his visit to the area. Indicating that Israel was guilty of the apartheid treatment of Palestinians, he said. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government,” Mthethwa said in a statement.
The ANC on Sunday night said it welcomed Mthethwa’s announcement that the government was withdrawing its support for Miss South Africa.
“The ANC continues to call upon Nine Squared, which owns the Miss South Africa organisation, to hear and listen to the overwhelming call for the Miss South Africa team to boycott the upcoming apartheid Israel-hosted Miss Universe. The racism, human rights violations, illegal settlements, ongoing unlawful occupation and the apartheid laws of Israel are well documented and should be compelling enough for your withdrawal.
“In this context it would be a betrayal of the South African people for Nine Squared and its CEO Stephanie Weil to insist on participation in Israel. We believe that the Miss SA organisation has a responsibility to give considerate advice and support to Miss Lalela Mswane and that the damage to her reputation of proceeding to Israel will far exceed any glamour that may arise. She is the face of a brand that Nine-squared owns so she will be blamed if the organisation proceeds, we call on her to do the right thing and withdraw, and for the CEO Stephanie Weil and the Miss South Africa company to support Mswane,” the ANC said.
Miss SA did not respond to several requests for comment on Sunday.
The human rights organisation #Africa4Palestine said on Sunday it joined thousands of South Africans and numerous human rights groups across the world in welcoming Mthethwa’s statement on behalf of the South African government.
It said South Africa had downgraded diplomatic relations with Israel and withdrawn its ambassador for over two years now.
“Recently our president Cyril Ramaphosa said ‘As long as that struggle persists we will be on the side of the Palestinians…we will always be on the right side because we know what is happening there, it’s gross apartheid taking place there and we cannot countenance a situation which is a duplicate or replica of what we went through. That we are not going to apologise for’. Last week a South African diplomat, Lesiba Machaba was assaulted, man-handled and abused by Israeli police near Ramallah.”
The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) said it was “appalled that the South African government is self-sabotaging our country’s hopes and chances of participating and shining in an international event just because it happens to take place in Israel”.
“Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, may think that South Africa is making a grand moral statement because the ruling party has been misled by a perversion of facts about Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, but in fact, our country is simply signalling its isolationism and irrelevance on the world stage.
“The government has been silent on actual and serious human rights abuses occurring in many other countries where we participate in sports and contests, but self-righteously reserves its opprobrium for the world’s only Jewish State.”