Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane – the second runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant held in Israel – landed in Johannesburg Wednesday morning, where she declared “I will not be bullied”.
Lalela’s detractors had wanted her to boycott participating in the Miss Universe pageant citing the Israeli oppression of the people of Palestine as the reason to do so.
The South African government even withdrew its support for Lalela amid pro-Palestinian protests.
But the 24-year-old law graduate from the University of Pretoria insisted on going to Israel, where she was named the Miss Universe second runner up at the weekend.
On her return on Wednesday, Lalela said she would have regretted it for the rest of her life if she missed out on the trip to Israel.
Commenting on her decision to defy the government, Lalela said: “Anybody that knows me knows I would have done it … purely because I am a firm believer in not succumbing to pressure”.
“I am not in the wrong … I have a responsibility to my people yes … but I will not be bullied into making any sort of decision, and also I was of the view that I am being attacked because I failed to pick a side … as a sign of loyalty that’s very immature and unnecessary and it would not get us anywhere.”