Miss South Africa met “Free Palestine” protests on her return from Israel
Miss South Africa faced pro-Palestinian protests upon arriving in her home country, after competing in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel
Miss South Africa was greeted with pro-Palestinian protests on Wednesday when she returned from Israel to her home country, where she competed in the Miss Universe pageant.
Upon landing at Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning, Lalela Mswane was greeted by protesters chanting “Free Palestine”.
Mswane’s refusal to boycott the competition sparked popular outcry in South Africa, a country with a recent strong history of solidarity with Palestine.
Even the government urged Mswane not to participate given Israel’s policy against the Palestinians, seen as accusations of “apartheid” by major NGOs.
“It proved difficult to persuade the organizers of the Miss SA pageant to reconsider their decision to participate in the Miss Universe event,” South Africa’s Department of Arts and Culture said in a statement at the time.
“The atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians are well documented and the government … cannot in good conscience associate itself with such.
“The South African government has withdrawn its support and that of South Africa to the Miss South Africa contest” following “the intransigence of the organization,” the statement added.
The grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela called on countries to boycott the Miss Universe pageant. He also called on all former Miss South Africa winners to boycott the event.
Zwelivelile “Mandla” Mandela deplored “the occupation and cruel treatment of Palestinians at the hands of the apartheid Israeli regime”.
“There is nothing beautiful about the occupation, brutality and institutionalized discrimination against the Palestinian people,” he added.
Israel hosted the 70th edition of the Miss Universe pageant on December 12 in Eilat.
Israeli organizers said they wanted the event to promote their country as a tourist destination.
Eilat is already a popular resort town located in the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, on the border of Egypt and Jordan.
Activists launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtags #BoycottMissUniverse, # MissUniverse2021 and #theresnobeautyinapartheid. Candidates from Indonesia and Malaysia withdrew following calls for a boycott.