PRETORIA – Political party Al Jama-ah has expressed extreme disappointment in the “unfortunate statement” released by the Miss South Africa organisation insisting that reigning Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane will represent South Africa at the Miss Universe in December, despite growing calls for the beauty queen to snub the prestigious event in solidarity with Palestine.
“The politically charged statement released (on Tuesday) chose to disregard the fundamental human rights of the oppressed people of Palestine, and rather chose to support and endorse an apartheid state.
“We remind Miss SA that the country she claims to represent is a beneficiary of an international solidarity movement, during the struggle against apartheid,” said Thapelo Amad, Al Jama-ah Gauteng provincial chairperson.
“We remind Miss SA Organisation of its political history that had previously discriminated against contestants based on the colour of their skin. One would have hoped that the history of this country and the organisation will inform how it conducts its affairs today.”
He highlighted that Palestinians face similar forms of discrimination; arbitrary arrests, restrictions in movement; as well as restrictions on where they live and where they work.
“Palestinians to this day have to carry around documentation similar to dompasses. As an organisation we unreservedly support the call made by Palestinians to respect and support their cultural boycott campaign, recognising the role that cultural institutions play in the efforts normalise the project of apartheid by Israel,” Amod said.
“Cultural events further serve to whitewash Israel’s violation of human rights against the indigenous Palestinian people and are part and parcel of the institutional support that allows for settler colonialism and apartheid.”
Al Jama-ah said it will be joining “any upcoming demonstrations” organised by Palestine solidarity activists “to send a clear message that we do not support or condone the decision by the Miss SA organisers to send a representative to Israel”.
Yesterday, the Miss South Africa organisation said despite the growing calls for Mswane to boycott the December event, she would be attending and participating on behalf of South Africa.
“Miss South Africa 2021 Lalela Mswane will be representing this country at Miss Universe at the end of the year. As the reigning Miss South Africa 2021, Mswane will be participating in the 70th Miss Universe pageant to be held on December 12 in Eilat, Israel, where Andrea Meza of Mexico will crown her successor at the end of the event,” said Miss South Africa organisation chief executive Stephanie Weil.
She said her organisation was aware of statements indicating that Mswane had pulled out of the December event, but she emphasised that those remarks were “completely unfounded and untrue”.
Weil said the Miss South Africa Organisation was thrilled to be able to make Mswane’s childhood dream – to wear the crown while representing her country globally – come true.
“Mswane has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child and will not be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition,” Weil said.
She said a “small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.
As the reigning Miss South Africa, Mswane will join participants from close to 70 countries in this contest “and will represent South Africa to the best of her ability”.
“South Africa was placed very firmly in the 21st century when Zozibini Tunzi, proudly wearing her natural hair without trying to conceal it under a weave or a wig, was crowned Miss Universe. Her refusal to bow down to pressure to look a certain way was ground-breaking and opened the door to diversity and the rise of the individual as opposed to lookalikes,” Weil said.
“Like her, Lalela will be a role model to young women – not just across the country, but across the African continent. Anyone who wants to rob Lalela of her moment in the spotlight is unkind and short-sighted. She is the shining beacon for young women everywhere, showing them that being beautiful while being clever and educated is very possible.
“We are not a political organisation and the Miss Universe pageant is not a politically inspired event,” Weil said.
Earlier, Pro-Palestine solidarity group Africa4Palestine yesterday, announced that Lalela was withdrawing her participation from this year's controversial Israeli-hosted Miss Universe pageant.
“We eagerly await the formal announcement and hope that Miss South Africa withdrawing sets an example to other contestants who may be afraid to publicly stand up for human rights.
“Miss South Africa will now join a growing list of participants who have withdrawn from the upcoming Israeli pageant including Miss Malaysia, Miss Greece, Miss Laos and Miss Indonesia who are all not attending this year's Miss Universe taking place in Apartheid Israel,” Africa4Palestine had said in its statement which was later rebutted by the Miss South Africa Organisation.
Following the crowning of Lalela Mswane, from Richards Bay as Miss South Africa 2021 in October, former president Nelson Mandela’s grandson Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela urged South Africans to boycott the Miss Universe event to be held in Israel.
The 24-year-old ballerina and model became the 63rd Miss South Africa and is set to compete at the Miss Universe 2021 pageant in the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
Meanwhile, Inkosi Mandela said in a press statement that he congratulates Mswane on her crowning.
However, after learning the location of the Miss Universe event, he called on her and all former Miss South Africa winners to boycott that event in protest at the “occupation and the cruel treatment of Palestinians at the hands of apartheid Israel regime”.
“There is nothing beautiful about occupation, brutality and institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people,” Inkosi Mandela said.