The South African Ministry of Culture boycott the country’s representative to Miss Universe pageant because host country is Israel
By Rolene Marks
The stage is set, the sequins extra shiny, the sashes ironed and the tiara polished – Eilat is getting ready to host the Miss Universe 2021 pageant to be held on the December 12 and are looking forward to welcoming representatives from around the world to compete for the coveted title. For the first time, there will be representatives from the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. This is historic and fitting with the flourishing peace afforded by the signing of the Abraham Accords normalization and peace treaties. The symbolism of the two beauty queens competing for the first time on the international stage in Israel is highly symbolic of the seeds of peace bearing real fruits.
While talking about beauty pageants is not my normal beat (having failed to place anywhere in Junior Miss Pears at the age of four, much to my mother’s chagrin), I find myself for the second time in a matter of weeks commenting on the Miss Universe pageant. Several weeks ago, Lay of the Land published an article explaining how Chief Mandla Mandela was calling for not just Miss South Africa; but other countries to boycott the Miss Universe pageant because it is being held in Israel.
With peacemaking clearly skipping Mandla in the Mandela gene pool, the former poster child for scandal, now turned BDS front man is going full throttle on his campaign and has roped in his cohorts-in-hate from the BDS movement to pressurize the new Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane to pull out. The beautiful and accomplished Miss South Africa, graduated with a degree in law and deserves every opportunity to not only achieve her dream but also the chance to proudly represent South Africa on the world stage, make lifelong friends and draw focus on the humanitarian causes that she champions.
With the pressure from hate groups like BDS mounting, the Miss South Africa on behalf of Lalela, released a statement that stated not only would she compete but Mswane has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child and she will not be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition.
Miss SA CEO, Stephanie Weil said a “very, very small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.
Bullying is what BDS do best and artists like Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney and many others can attest to that – including having the lives of themselves and their bands threatened by BDS activists.
Joining the BDS is the African National Congress (ANC) and this is an excerpt from their statement they released:
“Following unsuccessful consultations initiated by the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, it has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event scheduled to be held in Israel during the month of December 2021. 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 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.”
The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) as well as the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) have taken a strong position in support of Mswana.
The SAJBD said in a statement:
“It is quite clear that Minister Mthethwa’s view is a minority one. A poll conducted by Newzroom Afrika on Thursday night as to whether Miss SA should withdraw from the Miss Universe event in Israel showed a plurality of nearly 2:1 in favour of her competing. The PSA protest attracted a bare handful of activists. This is despite the barrage of intimidation by groups such as Africa4Palestine and SA BDS in the media have resulted in comments calling for them to stop bullying Lalela and for her to participate in the event.
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. The way we influence situations is to engage, not to withdraw. The SAJBD believes that closing doors merely isolates us from contributing and any contribution we can make to finding peace in this country. What better opportunity for a South African to be part of an event where she can connect with 70 countries around the world, including many Arab countries, in sharing our story of dialogue and peace-building?”
The SAZF added to that saying:
“The SAZF is 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.”
Perhaps South Africa is doing this to draw focus away from the myriad of problems plaguing the country. Extremely high levels of unemployment, government corruption, rolling electricity blackouts and many more issues are confronted by South Africans on a daily basis. Surely this is more important than sash-and-tiara wielding beauty queens? The ANC and BDS would have you believe that it is all about human rights but they remain resolutely silent on the genocide of the Uyghurs in China, the hanging of members of the LGBTQ community in Iran or the decimation of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Nothing like cosying up to some tin pot dictators to bring out the hypocrite in some folk!
It is interesting that another man has weighed on the Miss Universe pageant and the opportunity it brings to showcase young empowered, humanitarian driven women. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a strong advocate for BDS last visited Israel in 1989 and at Yad Vashem called on Jews around the world to “forgive the Nazis”.
I wonder if “The Arch” would pull this same stunt if the pageant was to be held in Venezuela, Cuba, China or any other country responsible for gross human rights violations? Probably not but this just exposes the hypocrisy and yes, antisemitism of BDS and its supporters.
It is a pity that the Miss Universe pageant which is non-political in nature but serves as a chance for women from different cultures and countries to build bridges has become the cause that the ANC who fought so hard for equal rights for all, now chooses to boycott its country’s women.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).