The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has backed Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, as she gears up for the Miss Universe pageant in Israel on Monday.
Mswane joins 77 contestants from around the world representing their countries in Eilat.
“The South African Jewish Board of Deputies warmly congratulates Lalela on being chosen to represent our nation and wishes her all success,” said the lobby group in a statement.
“Lalela prepares for this milestone in her life and career in the full knowledge that she has the overwhelming backing of the South African people.”
This year’s Miss Universe edition has been shrouded in controversy after Israel was chosen as the host nation.
The Department of Sport, Art and Culture announced that it was pulling its support for Mswane because she’d chosen to compete in the pageant despite widespread calls to boycott the event in support of the Palestinian people.
“Prior to her departure, she was subjected to an unprecedented campaign of vilification and intimidation by aggressive anti-Israel groups demanding that she withdraw from the competition,” said the SAJBD.
“Lalela, however, refused to be used as a political tool by anti-peace fringe lobbyists, looking to create division and strife in South African society.”
Non-profit organisation Citizens for Integrity recently brought an urgent application to court, challenging the department’s anti-Israeli stance.
But the matter was struck off the court roll on Wednesday after the court deemed the application not urgent.
Court papers by the organisation show that while the government was vehemently opposed to Miss SA competing in Israel, they had no problem backing an e-sport competitor in the same country.
“We applaud her for standing her ground in the face of these bullying tactics. Now is the time for us to come together and support her as she prepares to represent our country,” said the SAJBD.
Compiled by Narissa Subramoney