The Miss Universe pageant set to take place in Israel has become a hot political topic in South Africa, particularly after the government pulled their support of Miss SA Lalela Mswane’s participation.
The Miss SA Organisation is adamant that Mswane will go to Israel despite political parties and leaders asking that she stay away. People who support Palestine have dubbed South Africa’s participation as “siding with the oppressors”.
Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said Miss SA’s decision to participate in Miss Universe lacked “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,” he said.
Update 25 November:
The Citizen previously reported that Rafael Plastire, Greece’s Miss Universe contestant had boycotted the event, but there were conflicting reports of her representation in the pageant. The Greek reporter stated that Plastire was set to represent their country but because she pulled out, her replacement Katerina Kouvoutsaki would represent Greece.
However, Kouvoutsaki fell ill so runner-up Sofia Arapogianni will represent Greece at the event in Israel. Plastire was Miss Star Hellas 2019 and was set to represent Miss World for Greece. Plastire did say she was disappointed in the Miss Universe organisation for hosting this year’s ceremony in Israel.
Plastire wrote on Instagram: “I am disappointed in Miss Universe for this! It was a childhood dream for me but I really don’t care. I care about my people! Humanity above beauty pageants!
“It’s time to make our voices louder than ever!”
She has also posted in the past her support for Palestine, saying the people of Palestine live in her heart.
“I may not live in Palestine but Palestine lives in my heart forever. I see humans, not humanity. Pray for Palestine.”
Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, praised Plastire withdrawal from Miss Universe, the Daily Sun reported.
“Her withdrawal is a courageous act and makes her a true hero of all who value human rights, justice and peace in the world. We urged Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane to listen to Miss Greece’s wise words,” he said.
Miss Indonesia, Miss Malaysia, Miss Laos have withdrawn from the pageant due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mandela has called for all nations to withdraw from Miss Universe.