Newly crowned Miss South Africa (Miss SA) Lalela Mswane is set on attending the 70th Miss Universe competition in Israel.
This despite mounting pressure from politicians and citizens calling on her, and other beauty queens, to boycott the pageant.
The South African government publicly withdrew its support for the Miss South Africa pageant earlier in November.
In a statement in November Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said Miss SA’s decision 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,” said Mthethwa.
Both Lalela and The Miss SA organisation have been refusing to buckle under the pressure, with the organisation continuing to show their support for Lalela to attend the Miss Universe competition.
“We stand united with you @lalela_mswane you have already made us so proud and we know you will continue to do so. We love and adore you,” the Miss SA organisation said on Saturday.
Social media users were left confused on Saturday afternoon after Lalela released a statement on Instagram informing fans that she is getting ready to prepare to represent South Africa at the 70th Miss Universe competition.
However, this was later clarified by the Miss SA organisation, which said in an Instagram post that Mswane was on her way to the pageant.
Israel restricted travel to and from South Africa and some neighbouring countries on Thursday, leading to fans wondering just how Miss SA will get to Israel, while others wondered if she could possibly already be there.
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Lalela said that she is determined to serve South Africa in the best way she can, and that “there is no greater time to shed light on issues affecting women, to choose courage over comfort and to be steadfast in my beliefs regarding the advancement of women and our rights.”
“I view my participation in the pageant as a unique opportunity to not only do just that but to also be part of, and hopefully contribute to, a process of dialogue and peace.”
Lalela also took the time to thank all her supporters who “uplifted me and brought me joy and comfort during the lead up to this moment. I wish to compete with the support of South Africans and do my country proud,” she said.
The 2021 Miss Universe pageant will take place in Eilat, Israel on 12 December.
Additional reporting by Gareth Cotterell