The South African government on Sunday said it has withdrawn its support for Miss SA after organisers insisted on participating in next month’s Miss Universe pageant in Israel.
The announcement follows unsuccessful consultations initiated by the sports, arts, and culture ministry.
In recent weeks Chief Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela, MP and tribal chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council has been calling for a boycott of the Miss Universe pageant.
Chief Mandela – the grandson of icon Nelson Mandela – said: “We reiterate our call to all Miss Universe pageant contestants to heed our call and do what is right. Boycott apartheid Israel. Do not participate in the apartheid Israel Miss Universe pageant.”
At the weekend sports, arts and culture minister, Nathi Mthethwa, said while he was appreciative of the likely impact on the individual interest of newly crowned Miss SA Lalela Mswane, he strongly believes that reasons that require her withdrawal far outweigh individual interests.
“If anything, by withdrawing, Miss SA’s reputation and overall standing will be far more advanced in South Africa and internationally in comparison to a once-off event that can prove disastrous to her future and public standing as a young, black woman,” said Mthethwa.
“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.
“Our first preference was to try and find each other so as to issue a joint media statement. This has regrettably been unsuccessful, hence the decision now to publicly distance the government and the people of South Africa from Miss SA pageant organiser’s stance on this matter.
“But even so, we still hope some common sense will prevail in the interest of the reigning queen, Lalela Mswane; and we remain open for discussions in that regard.”
The 24-year-old Miss SA, who has a law degree from the University of Pretoria, has been lambasted on social media for wanting to take part in the Miss Universe pageant.
Last week the Miss SA organisers said Mswane will not be bullied into quitting.