Furore over Miss South Africa appearing in Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Israel

Furore over Miss South Africa appearing in Miss Universe 2021 pageant in Israel

Govt refuses to associate itself with the 70th Miss Universe pageant over “atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians".
19 Nov, 2021

Controversy is swirling around the Miss South Africa beauty pageant, as the government has withdrawn its support for the event because of its plans to participate in the Miss Universe 2021 contest which is to be held in Israel in December.

The current Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, appears to be caught in an uncomfortable spot because of the furore.

The government announced this week that it has withdrawn its backing after it failed to persuade the Miss South Africa pageant organisers to pull out of the event to protest Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

Earlier this year, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the Israeli rights group B’Tselem separately said those policies amount to apartheid, drawing comparisons with the brutal system of racial discrimination in South Africa that ended in 1994. Israel rejected those allegations, accusing both groups of bias.

The government said it refuses to associate itself with the 70th annual Miss Universe pageant to be held in Eilat, Israel as “the atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented”, Minister of Arts, Sport and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said in a statement earlier this week.

The government’s action prompted an angry response from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.

“South Africa has diplomatic ties and extensive commercial trade relations with Israel. It engages in events such as this one, such as hosting the Israeli Davis Cup team in 2018,” said Wendy Kahn, national director of the board, in a statement. “The way we influence situations is to engage, not to withdraw.”

The Jewish board accused Mthethwa of politicising the beauty contest while at the same time failing to address the challenges faced by South African artists during the Covid-19 lockdown.

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has supported calls for Mswane to boycott Miss Universe and warned that “the damage to her reputation will far exceed any glamour that may arise”.

South Africa’s leftist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and other pro-Palestinian organizations, including the labor federation COSATU, have also raised public pressure on the Miss South Africa organisers to withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel.

So far Mswane, a 24-year-old law graduate who won the Miss South Africa contest last month, has remained silent on whether or not she will participate in the pageant in Israel.

Political disputes around beauty contests

South Africa has had a good run in the Miss Universe pageant in recent years, with Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi winning the Miss Universe crown in 2019 and Demi-Leigh Peters (now Tebow) winning it in 2017.

This is not the first time that South Africa has been the centre of political disputes that affect beauty contests. As international opposition grew to the country’s racist apartheid regime in the 1980s, South Africa was banned from competing in both the Miss World and Miss Universe events. It was readmitted after the release of Nelson Mandela and its first democratic elections.

In 2018, South African DJ Black Coffee faced a backlash for performing in Tel Aviv, ignoring calls from various sectors to withdraw from the event in solidarity with the Palestinians.

Next month’s pageant in Israel is in the spotlight because of calls to boycott the event as a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. Over the past 54 years, Israel has systematically deepened its grip on occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state by building settlements. The last meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on a partition deal were held more than a decade ago, and Israel’s current prime minister is opposed to the idea of Palestinian statehood.

The BDS movement promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israeli institutions and businesses in what it says is a nonviolent campaign for Palestinian rights modeled on a similar boycott movement decades ago against South African apartheid.

Israel says the campaign is an effort to delegitimise and even destroy the country, and claims its motives are antisemitic. BDS leaders deny allegations of antisemitism, saying their campaign is against Israeli policies.


haris Nov 19, 2021 07:03pm
Every time to you raise question on the face of Israel, you eventually become an Antisemitic.
Taj Ahmad Nov 19, 2021 07:19pm
Very pretty Miss. South Africa
secular73 Nov 19, 2021 08:37pm
congratulations Lalela Mswane. You are a brave girl.
Din Nov 19, 2021 08:46pm
Now she is a winner!
LgbtqX Nov 19, 2021 09:04pm
Is Pakistan going to participate.
D’Souza Nov 19, 2021 09:05pm
Fine don’t participate. Although, the Miss South Africa is beautiful! She will be missed.
TAhmad Nov 20, 2021 12:27am
All Israelis and Palestinians lives are matter, Israelis Army must understand and respect lives of all Palestinians and must returned all occupied Palestinians lands immediately for a lasting peace in the region.
Chooza Nov 20, 2021 03:32am
Funny, challenge is limited to and from Earth yet they claim Miss Universe, has anyone asked the Martians, or any other Aliens?
Facts Nov 20, 2021 07:21am
Shameful the way this event is getting politicised just because Israel is hosting it.
Saira Khan Nov 20, 2021 08:35am
@LgbtqX unlike Indians we don’t follow in the footsteps of your western masters all the time.
sana Nov 20, 2021 10:54am
@TAhmad sure whatever you want
SUMA Nov 20, 2021 11:22am
Why keep beating same old antisemitic drum? Move on.
Hadi Nov 20, 2021 05:01pm
Israel will not be viewed kindly by history, only a matter of time