JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The South African government has withdrawn its support for Miss South Africa after the organisation refused to pull out of the Miss Universe contest in Israel, amid calls for a boycott to show support for the Palestinian people.
Pro-Palestine organisations have called on Lalela Mswane, crowned Miss South Africa in October, and pageant organiser Miss SA to boycott the December event to condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people.
The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture said in a statement on Sunday it had tried to persuade Miss SA to withdraw from the event and still hopes to convince Mswane.
South Africa has a long history supporting the Palestinian people, and Israel’s treatment of Palestians reminds many in the country of apartheid crimes against its Black population. Israel denies it maintains an apartheid policy against Palestinians.
Political parties including the ruling African National Congress and some of the country’s biggest trade unions also support the boycott.
“At this stage, the participation of so-called Miss South Africa would be irrelevant,” said Bram Hanekom, a board member at Palestinian solidarity group Africa4Palestine.
“Nobody can say she is representing the country… (it) would leave her absolutely alone with the organisers who seem hell bent to proceed.”
The Israeli government did not immediately comment. Miss SA did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. Mswane also did not respond to messages sent to Instagram accounts belonging to her and a foundation she set up.
(Reporting by Shafiek Tassim; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Writing by Emma Rumney; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)