Miss SA Lalela Mswane Has No Regrets, Feels Calm

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The much-maligned Miss South Lalela Mswane Africa, whose participation in the Miss Universe pageant does not enjoy the support of the ANC-led government, on Friday said does not regret making the trip to Israel.

Lalela whose name means “listen,” says if she had listened to dissenting voices that said she should not visit Israel she would have regretted it.

In an exclusive interview in Israel’s The Jerusalem Post featured on Friday Lalela said: “If I had not come to Israel to compete in the Miss Universe pageant, I think I would have regretted it for the rest of my life”.

The 70th Miss Universe 2021 takes place late on Sunday, 12 December, at Universe Arena in Port Eilat.

The Jerusalem Post – Israel’s most-read English news website and best-selling English newspaper founded in 1932 – had an exclusive interview with Miss SA that featured the controversy surrounding her participation in the Miss Universe pageant.

“My soul would not have been at peace if I had skipped it,” Lalela told the publication.

The Jerusalem Post said Lalela was a devout Catholic who was moved when she visited the Old City of Jerusalem with the other contestants, “especially the Church of the Holy Sepulchre”.

The publication quoted the law graduate as saying she felt “calmness and a sense of renewal.”

Lalela spoke of the friendliness of Israelis she had met: “I always thought South Africa has the friendliest people on earth but it might be rivaled by Israel.”

Miss South Africa said she was certain she made the correct choice to use the platform given by the Miss Universe pageant’s publicity “to shed a light on the issue of women’s rights.”

The former Pretoria University student said she was concerned that young South Africans lack opportunities.

While some South Africans have criticised her decision, Lalela said others support her. “I’ve gotten every kind of comment on social media,” she said.

Lalela’s decision to defy calls for her to boycott the pageant has also drawn criticism from pro-Palestinian groups and the South African government.

“The South African government’s arts and culture ministry came into conflict with the organisers of the South African pageant after the government called for [Miss SA Lalela] Mswane to boycott, citing Israeli ‘atrocities against Palestinians’,” wrote The Jerusalem Post.

Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem, praised 24-year-old Lalela on Twitter for “speaking truth to power and not just being a beautiful but a very brave lady.”

South Africa has downgraded its diplomatic relations with Israel in recent years and withdrawn its ambassador.