Recently we saw a top 12 finalist in the Miss South Africa pageant pull out following allegations of bullying which flooded Twitter timelines. If you’ve underestimated the power of social media, let Miss South Africa be a reminder of how your past can catch up with you.
Hopefuls of the beauty pageant have, over the past few years found themselves pulling out of it following allegations of bullying on social media.
Levern José, from the Northern Cape, was recently called out on Twitter for allegedly being a bully in high school. The Miss South Africa Top 12 finalist made the decision to withdraw from the 2023 Miss South Africa pageant in light of the bullying allegations and attacks she faced in the past week on social media.
In 2020, Bianca Schoombe was put on blast for past tweets of a racist, derogatory nature. She found herself trending because of her 2013 racist posts on Twitter. Just a day after, models Zizile Mthembu and Oneida Cooper found themselves navigating similar waters.
Mthembu, the founder of YoziGM Modeling Academy in the Eastern Cape had announced her intentions to enter the beauty pageant. And like Schoombe, it didn’t take long for her past discretions to come back and haunt her.
Oneida Cooper’s old tweets, where she allegedly used the N-word, has also landed her in hot water.
This is all clearly a case of being careful of what you tweet.
“As a survivor of bullying I learned how to protect myself from bullying during my school years. If my actions in protecting myself caused harm to anyone, I offer my sincere apologies.
“The pain of being a target has left an indelible mark on my heart, and I would never intentionally cause hurt or contribute to someone else’s suffering,” said José in a statement released this week,” José said.
She further said that it troubled her that such accusations could be levelled against her.
“Kindness, respect and empathy have always been my guiding principles and I have unwaveringly worked to adhere to these values. It deeply troubles me that such grave accusations could be levelled against me. While I firmly believe in my own accountability and responsibility, I also hold steadfastly to the principles of fairness and justice,” José said.
It is believed that José has been supported by the Miss South Africa Organisation’s mental health partner, the South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG), who have provided counselling to her.
“Bullying is a complex issue with a multitude of underlying causes. All forms of bullying are harmful and unacceptable. It is essential to acknowledge the profound impact bullying has on the mental health of everyone involved; statistics have shown that 57% of South African children experience bullying during their school years.
“The consequences of this behaviour reach far beyond the immediate impact, as survivors often carry emotional scars into adulthood. In today’s South African climate, it is not enough to simply prevent bullying, we must provide assistance to those who have been affected.
“It is crucial for individuals, communities and institutions to come together to address this pressing issue.
“By creating safe environments, raising awareness, and implementing effective prevention and intervention strategies, we can take significant steps towards reducing the devastating consequences of bullying on mental health,” said Cayley Jorgensen, founder of Ingage Support, registered counsellor and SADAG spokesperson.
The Miss SA Organisation said: “The Miss South Africa Organisation does not condone bullying of any kind. We accept Levern’s decision to pull out of the competition and respect her for owning her truth and taking this time to focus on her own healing.”
Professor Lesiba Kwena of the Faculty of Communication Science at the University of the Free State said, such situations should be a reminder for one to be cognisant of what they put out there on social media as it may come back to them and this could have an impact.
“It’s important for one to be careful of what they put on social media at all times. Tweets are permanent, and once you’ve tweeted something negative about someone, you risk that tweet becoming defamatory,” said Kwena.