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Miss SA headed to Miss Universe despite bullying



Miss SA, Lalela Mswane, is headed for the Miss Universe pageant in Israel in spite of incessant harassment by anti-Israel activists on social media intent on intimidating and tormenting the young contestant.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)-aligned group, Africa4Palestine, incorrectly announced this week that Miss SA had withdrawn from the pageant when she had not.

The so-called human-rights group has now accused the chief executive of Miss SA, Stephanie Weil, of “making a U-turn” on the announcement.

It has further bullied the young 24-year-old by threatening to “embark on a vigilant campaign including protest action”.

Weil said this week that after consultation, Mswane had chosen to represent her country on the Miss Universe stage next month in Eilat.

“This is contrary to any indication otherwise,” Weil said in a statement this week.

She said she was aware there were statements indicating that Mswane had pulled out of the pageant but that these were “completely unfounded and untrue”.

The KwaZulu-Natal beauty is facing a backlash by a small group of anti-Israel activists hellbent on derailing her chances of competing on the world stage with contestants from about 70 countries including Miss Morocco and Miss Universe UAE.

While there has been a large chorus of support for her by fans on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, there has also been a constant trickle of criticism and harassment. There have been a number of posts of the Palestinian flag and various hashtags including #NotMyMissSA and #BoycottMissUniverse as well as snide remarks and disturbing images.

Earlier the Palestinian Solidarity Alliance threatened in capital letters on Instagram that it was “time to fight harder”, “time to make our presence felt” after it claimed that Miss SA had blocked it on social media.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies told the SA Jewish Report that it fully supported Mswane in attending the Miss Universe competition. “There’s no reason why she shouldn’t go,” said the organisation, accusing the BDS movement of bullying and lying.

“Preventing her from participating in Miss Universe will make no contribution to attaining resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only denying this young woman the opportunity to compete on the international stage.

“Once again, BDS is intimidating South Africans to comply with its political demands. It returns to its modus operandi of bullying and intimidation, and when that’s not successful, it resorts to lies and deceit. When its fraudulent claim that Miss SA had withdrawn from the pageant was exposed, it added to the lie by saying that there had been a ‘U-turn’.

“Our community has been the target of BDS intimidation, bullying, and lies for many years and it’s regrettable that Lalela has become its latest scapegoat. We wish Miss Mswane success in her pageant.”

The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) said it was “appalled at the tactics of peddling fake news generated by various BDS lobby groups”.

Benji Shulman, the director of public policy at the SAZF, said, “This form of cyberbullying and the targeting of Miss SA, Lalela Mswane, is a new low and shouldn’t be tolerated. Both Nelson Mandela’s grandson Mandla Mandela and the director of the BDS organisation driving this campaign have themselves been accused of assaulting women and are further undermining South African women with their actions.”

He said Miss SA’s participation on the international stage was “an incredible opportunity to showcase South Africa in a positive light”.

“It’s clear that BDS activists are simply scared that by going to Israel, she will expose South Africans to Israel’s democratic, diverse, and vibrant society. Furthermore, no other countries are boycotting Miss Universe, and those that aren’t attending are doing so due to COVID-19 restrictions. On the contrary, there will be participants from the UAE, Morocco and Lebanon, and many African countries, some for the first time.”

Weil earlier said that the Miss SA organisation was thrilled to be able to make Mswane’s childhood dream – to wear the crown while representing her country globally – come true.

“Mswane has spoken out openly about being bullied as a child. She won’t be bullied as an adult against fulfilling her ambition,” Weil said, pointing out that a “very, very small but extremely vocal group” had attempted and failed to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.

Weil said on radio this week that that Miss SA would use the opportunity in Israel to learn about the conflict and engage on the topic, and would represent South Africa to the best of her ability.

Earlier, she said that, “South Africa was placed very firmly in the 21st century when Zozibini Tunzi, proudly wearing her natural hair without trying to conceal it under a weave or a wig, was crowned Miss Universe.

“Her refusal to bow down to pressure to look a certain way was ground breaking, and opened the door to diversity and the rise of the individual as opposed to look-alikes. Like her, Lalela will be a role model to young women, not just across the country, but across the African continent.

“Anyone who wants to rob Lalela of her moment in the spotlight is unkind and short sighted. She’s the shining beacon for young women everywhere, showing them that being beautiful while being clever and educated is possible,” Weil said.

“We aren’t a political organisation and the Miss Universe pageant isn’t a politically inspired event.”

It will be the first time an Emirati has competed in the pageant. Emiratis were previously not permitted to visit Israel, but the two countries have welcomed each other’s citizens since normalising relations last year. The president of the Miss Universe organisation, Paula Shugart, has said that the theme of the show will be “Israel”, and there are plans for contestants to visit places like Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Mandla Mandela, has urged South Africans to boycott the Miss Universe pageant. He initially congratulated Mswane on her crowning, but called on her to boycott the event after he learned it was taking place in Israel.

Meanwhile radio personality DJ Warras posted his support for Miss SA on Twitter. The Gagasi FM radio jock said, “Miss SA & organisers must NOT be bullied into taking sides in 100-year conflicts. She has earned her crown and has a right to live her dream and compete for Miss Universe! This nonsense that we have to take sides in conflicts that have nothing to do with us. Mandela told them in 92.”

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  1. Rita

    Nov 15, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    BDS and Mandla Mandela are known to lie so why should anyone listen to them. Good luck to Lalela Mswane, she is a beautiful young women and should go far.

  2. yitzchak

    Nov 19, 2021 at 8:46 am

    AS far as I know Ms Saudi Arabia and Ms Iran will be participating
    so why the boycott?

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