Christian ANC official says Miss SA is ‘our ambassador’ at pageant in Israel

Lalela Mswane in Israel (PHOTO: Instagram)

Miss SA has the right to participate in the Miss Universe pageant in Israel, says Sibongile Cele, deputy chairperson of the ANC Women’s League in Johannesburg and a spokesperson for Citizens for Justice (CFI), an NGO that has accused the government and the minister of sports, arts, and culture of acting unconstitutionally and irrationally in its “bullying” of Miss SA.

Cele told South African Jewish Report (SAJR): “As a committed Christian, I felt it was important to look at her rights as a woman and her rights as Miss SA. Her rights shouldn’t be infringed because of politics. The Miss Universe pageant shouldn’t be politicised, and as a citizen of this country, she has the right to compete in the pageant. She shouldn’t be held back, she won the title of Miss SA, and she is our ambassador.”

CFI has filed papers in the North Gauteng High Court taking the government and Minister Nathi Mthethwa to task for withdrawing its support for Lalela Mswane in November, and for calling for her to withdraw from the 70th Miss Universe pageant to be held in Israel on December 12

Lalela, 21, a LLB graduate who was born in KwaZulu-Natal, has stood her ground despite considerable pressure on her to pull out of the event from anti-Israel activists and the government arrived in Israel last weekend. In a recent Instagram post she wrote: “From South Africa to the Universe. I’d just like to express my deepest gratitude for the overwhelming love I’ve received this week. Thank you all so much for embracing me so warmly and making my journey one that’s incredibly special. Ngiyabonga South Africa.”

Cele told SAJR She isn’t afraid of a backlash from the ANC for defending Lalela’s right to compete in Israel, saying:“ I am a Christian before I am a member of the ANC, we report to God first.”

In a press statement issued this week, CFI said that as an organisation “aimed at protecting the rights of citizens and the public against abuse, unconstitutional action, and irrational government decisions which affect citizens’ rights”, it took issue with the government and the minister.

It has demanded an apology and an immediate retraction of the statement withdrawing its support for the Miss SA organisation and Miss SA, Lalela Mswane.

Willie Hofmeyr, the retired head of the asset forfeiture unit at the National Prosecuting Authority, and also one of the founders and directors of CFI, said this week that it was an “important issue to address”, reports SAJR.

“We need to ensure that all citizens in the country are treated equally well and fairly. It appears as if Miss SA has not been treated fairly,” he said.

The CFI said in papers before the court that the government’s decision also “didn’t constitute a legitimate purpose of government” as it didn’t “fall within the legitimate powers and objectives conferred upon the government by the Constitution”.

“The government has not only failed, but has deliberately transgressed its obligation to respect and protect the human rights guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights,” it said.

Although Mswane is already in Israel, the CFI launched an urgent application in the Gauteng North High Court to be heard on Tuesday December 7 to have the government’s statement declared unconstitutional, Cele told SAJR.

She said the organisation’s attorneys had written to President Cyril Ramaphosa demanding an apology to South Africans “for exceeding the bounds of the government’s authority, and interfering in the rights of citizens”.

“The South African government’s decision to support a boycott of a country with which it has diplomatic relations and withdraw its support for a citizen – who will participate in a non-political cultural event in that country – is also irrational, especially in light of the fact that countries that don’t have diplomatic relations with Israel are allowing their citizens to participate and are furnishing them with due support,” said the CFI.

“That agents of the South African government approached Miss South Africa and attempted to coerce her to withdraw from her legitimate participation in the Miss Universe pageant is unconscionable and disgraceful by all normal standards of governance,” it said.

The decision constituted “a standard of bullying by government” and also induced “a sense of unease” that the government may arbitrarily and unconstitutionally pick on any citizen “regarded with disfavour”.

Meanwhile, reports SAJR, a smiling and ecstatic Mswane has posted pictures of herself on Instagram in Israel dressed in locally-designed outfits.

After a long silence, the 24-year-old took to social media before she left, saying attending Miss Universe was “not only an honour but also a huge responsibility”.

“I am determined to serve our country proudly in the best way I can. I stand today as an empowered woman because of so many before me who fought for our voices to be heard. I feel my duty is to do the same for the women of the past, the women of today, and the women to come.

“There is no greater time to shed light on issues affecting women, to choose courage over comfort, and to be steadfast in my beliefs regarding the advancement of women and our rights.”

Mswane said she viewed her participation in the pageant as a “unique opportunity” hopefully to contribute to the process of dialogue and peace.

“I am deeply thankful to all the amazing people who have supported and uplifted me, and brought me joy and comfort during the lead-up to this moment. I wish to compete with the support of South Africans and do my country proud,” she said.

SAJR writes: “In spite of the anti-Israel lobby’s attempts to harass contestants into pulling out of the pageant, not one country is boycotting. Several have pulled out due to COVID-19, but none have withdrawn for political reasons. The Israel-haters spread fake news that countries such as Greece and Barbados had withdrawn because they were boycotting Israel, however this was proven false.”

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One Comment

  1. How heart-warming it is to read of Ms Cele’s courageous stand ln this very controversial issue. May this dear fellow-believer be abundantly blessed to continue to be an asset to the ANC, her Church and her community!!