Pro-Israel group hails Lalela Mswane’s Miss Universe ‘achievement’
South African Friends of Israel (Safi) has hailed Miss SA Lalela Mswane’s “achievement” in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel on Monday, saying she had “brought pride and honour to our nation”.
Mswane was second runner-up, finishing behind winner Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu and Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira.
Her participation had been marred by controversy, with politicians and civil society calling on her to take a stance against Israel concerning that country’s conflict with Palestine.
Safi hailed Mswane as a “courageous and deserving woman”.
“Miss SA Lalela Mswane has brought pride and honour to our nation by being crowned the second runner-up at the 2021 Miss Universe pageant in Eilat, Israel. She has raised the status and visibility of SA across the globe.”
Government pulled its endorsement of Mswane ahead of the pageant, claiming the Miss SA Organisation did not seem eager to appreciate the negative impact of representing the country in Israel.
The Miss SA organisers defended Mswane's participation, saying it was “not getting involved in a political war of words”.
Safi slammed the government for its decision not to back Mswane and claimed she had shown “courage and conviction” to stand up against critics.
“Lalela Mswane truly represents the millions of South Africans who are standing behind her and celebrating her achievements. As Safi, we applaud Miss SA and Miss Universe second runner-up for standing strong and resilient in the face of hate.
“Her courage, tenacity and determination are an example to all. She is a worthy princess and we look forward to following her achievements as she continues her reign as Miss SA. It is time for all those who are proudly South African to celebrate this remarkable achievement,” it said.
The Palestine Solidarity Alliance Youth League had been at the forefront of calls for Mswane to boycott the pageant, and handed a memorandum to the Miss SA organisers in Johannesburg before the event detailing its demands.
“We will not stop making our voices heard until the demands are met,” it said.
On Sunday evening, the youth league again distanced itself from Mswane and suggested she did not represent SA.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the weekend, Mswane said her “soul would not have been at peace” if she had skipped the pageant.
“Certain people have put me through hell and back. It has not been the easiest thing to deal with. But I choose to be optimistic. The way everything unfolded reminded me of His greatness and why I’m here.”