South African officials want a boycott of the Miss Universe beauty contest held in Israel, qualifying the country as “guilty of the apartheid treatment of Palestinians“. In 1976, nine countries boycotted Miss World because of the apartheid in South Africa.
On November 14, the South African government officially withdrew the support of the country for Miss South Africa 2021 because she wants to participate in the 2021 Miss Universe beauty pageant in December.
The government wants a boycott of the beauty pageant because it is going to be organized in Eilat, a resort town in Israel. South African authorities consider Israel imposes an apartheid on the Palestinian population.
In its statement, the ministry of Sports, Arts & Culture blames the “intransigence and disregard of advice against partaking” in the beauty contest. It further explains that Miss SA organizers don’t see the “potential negative impact of such a decision on the reputation and future of a young black woman“.
After some calls for a boycott of the ceremony, Miss South Africa organizers said on November 9 that Miss Africa would represent her country. “We are not a political organization and The Miss Universe pageant is not a politically inspired event“, the company wrote on Facebook.
But the government, as “the legitimate representative of the people of South Africa, cannot in good conscience associate itself” with “atrocities committed by Israel against Palestinians“. The government calls for a withdrawal that “far outweigh[s] individual interests“.
Boycotts of Miss World 1976 because of the apartheid in South Africa
Lalela Lali Mswane, elected Miss South Africa in October 16, “wants to go and wants to represent her country“, Stephanie Weill, CEO of Miss SA had justified on radio before the government statement.
“We all know that boycotting is not necessarily going to be the way to make a substantial difference. And I truly don’t believe not attending and not being able to showcase or use one’s voice and being in that country is going to be the right thing“, the CEO further explained.
The African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela continuously in power since 1994, welcomed the government decision and recalled the Miss World beauty pageant of 1976.
In 1976, nine contestants boycotted Miss World because of the apartheid regime in South Africa: India, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Philippines, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Swaziland (Eswatini), Yugoslavia.
Since elections of Miss South Africa started in 1956, black women were not allowed to represent the country. Black South Africans participated in a competition called “Miss Africa South“. But in 1977, black women were allowed to participate in Miss South Africa.
South Africa has had an embassy in Israel since 1975 and recognized the State of Palestine in 1995.