Miss South Africa met with 'Free Palestine' protests upon return from Israel contest

Miss South Africa met with 'Free Palestine' protests upon return from Israel contest
2 min read
17 December, 2021
Miss South Africa was met with pro-Palestine protests as soon as landed in her home country, after she participated in the Miss Universe contest in Israel
Lalela Mswane was met with protests upon her return to South Africa [Getty]

Miss South Africa was greeted Wednesday with pro-Palestine protests when she returned to her home country from Israel, where she participated in the Miss Universe contest.

Upon landing at Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning, Lalela Mswane was met by protesters chanting "Free Palestine".

Mswane's refusal to boycott the contest sparked popular uproar in South Africa, a country with a strong recent history of solidarity with Palestine.

Even the government urged Mswane not to take part given Israel's policies against Palestinians, considered "apartheid" accusations by leading NGOs.

"It has proven difficult to persuade the Miss SA Pageant organisers to reconsider their decision to partake in the Miss Universe event," the South African arts and culture ministry said in a statement at the time. 

Voices

"The atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians are well documented and Government...cannot in good conscience associate itself with such. 

"The South African government withdrew its support and that of South Africa for the Miss South Africa pageant" following the organisation's "intransigence", the statement added. 

The grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela called on countries to boycott the Miss Universe contest. 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 apartheid Israel regime". 

"There is nothing beautiful about occupation, brutality and institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people," he added. 

Israel hosted the 70th edition of the Miss Universe competition on 12 December in Eilat.

Israeli organisers said they wanted the event to promote their country as a tourist destination.

Eilat is already a popular resort city located in the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea, bordering both Egypt and Jordan.

Activists launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtags #BoycottMissUniverse, #MissUniverse2021 and #theresnobeautyinapartheid. Candidates from Indonesia and Malaysia withdrew following the calls to boycott.