Cape Argus

Denying Miss SA her right to compete is racist and patronisin­g

- DAVID ROBERT LEWIS | Cape Town

THE Miss Universe pageant was not the subject of a boycott when it was held in apartheid South Africa. In fact, the oft-referred to event never occurred, and was never scheduled.

Our country does not appear as a location on the list of Miss Universe pageants held every year since 1952 — except for a sole 1996 event which was mooted for Johannesbu­rg but then shifted to the US.

The organisers behind the campaign to remove Miss South Africa from the competitio­n being held in Israel this year would like us to believe that similar actions were taken against the self-same beauty pageant held in apartheid South Africa.

It is only the 1996 Miss Universe event which was scheduled to be held in the country, two years after the first democratic elections, but which was later moved.

The blatant denial of the rights of Lalela Mswane, a black woman, to decide her fate for herself, especially when it comes to political issues, is both patronisin­g and racist.

In a televised interview, Palestine4­Africa’s Bram Hanekom appears to upbraid Mswane’s decision to attend, insisting that he, as a white male, should decide her future.

He claims that since boycotts were used to good measure as one of the many tools of the anti-apartheid movement, similar strategies will be equally effective in “gaining rights for Palestinia­ns”.

He appears oblivious to the fact that if such an event had been held in the country during the height of apartheid, no black contestant­s would have been allowed to attend.

The first official Miss South Africa pageant held in 1956 was only open to “white” (Caucasian) females and was organised to send a representa­tive to London for the Miss World pageant.

That year, Norma Vorster was crowned Miss South Africa. Two years later, Penny Coelen was crowned and would later go on to win Miss World.

It was not until 1977 that all persons of all races were allowed to compete in the Miss SA competitio­n.

Prior to that, people of colour competed in the Miss Africa South pageant, which was renamed Miss Black South Africa in 1977.

It is unclear what the goals of the BDS-affiliated campaign are – whether or not they are effectivel­y campaignin­g to end women’s rights in Israel, or merely seek to maintain the status quo vis-à-vis LGTBIQ rights in the region, a situation in which gay rights are restricted in most Arab states and in some cases subject to the death penalty.

Apartheid was a policy separating persons according to pseudoscie­ntific race classifica­tion, not national or religious affiliatio­n, and homosexual­ity was outlawed.

According to Amnesty Internatio­nal (AI), women in Gaza and the Palestinia­n Authority continue to face discrimina­tion and violence, including killings as a result of gender-based violence.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgende­r (LGBT) persons in the “State of Palestine” face legal challenges and discrimina­tion not experience­d by non-LGBT residents.

In 2019, the Palestinia­n Authority (ie, West Bank) police banned the activities of queer and feminist rights organisati­on Al Qaws and demanded that residents report “suspicious” activities.

Injustice cannot be overcome by injustice.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa