Lalela, listen to the people

Less than a month after being crowned Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane is knee-deep in controversy. Walking away with the crown means she must represent the country at December’s Miss Universe pageant. 

But Miss Universe is being hosted in Israel this year and many South Africans are unhappy at the thought of our flag flying on an Israeli stage. The United Nations has labelled Israel an “apartheid state” on several occasions because of its illegal occupation of neighbouring Palestine and brutal attacks on often unarmed Palestinians. South African foreign policy recognises Palestine’s independence.

A number of pro-Palestinian organisations have called for Mswane to boycott Miss Universe to show her solidarity with Palestineans. Mswane has not personally made her stance clear on the issue but the Miss SA organisation, a private entity, says she intends to attend the pageant and insists it is not “involved in politics”. A little rich, some argue, coming from a pageant whose 2021 contestants were asked to share their views on issues like trans women’s representation, education policy and gender-based violence during the finale.

 The organisation’s CEO also says a boycott would rob Mswane of her voice and not change much, adding that her attendance would be more impactful than a stay-away. We’re not convinced.

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 11 November 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.