Miss South Africa is a ’front for Nine Squared’
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OPINION: This week, we learnt that Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane, is essentially an employee of Nine Squared, no longer a Miss South Africa and certainly not an ambassador for South Africa but a face of Nine Squared, writes Bram Hanekom.
Until this week, most South Africans had not given much thought to who or what “Miss South Africa” is.
It was accepted that during apartheid Miss South Africa had participated in a racist system which excluded most of our people and discarded the views of most.
However, Miss South Africa, over the past few years, put huge effort into rebranding and marketing itself as representing all South Africans. We heard news of contestants withdrawing because of having been implicated in racism and it seemed that the Miss South Africa company was changing.
Many of us, without questioning it, began to accept that Miss South Africa is a woman who won the national pageant/tournament to become beauty queen of our country. It appeared that the pageant required the winner to be a strong supporter of human rights, have good moral judgement, be confident and promote the image of South Africa internationally. We believed this because participants were asked questions pertaining to their morality and South African values.
We were also led to believe that Miss South Africa was a sort of a national or official South African representative, accountable somehow to our people and our country.
The opinion was also strongly promoted by the Miss South Africa company which states on its website “Beautiful, diverse and powerful, these women are shaped into celebrated ambassadors of our country”.
The website of Miss SA presents the Miss South Africa company as an official South African structure that has some diplomatic status to train and support the new “diplomats”, without questioning many of us believed this was true.
This all changed when a humble appeal was made to Miss South Africa by Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela. He appealed to Miss South Africa to withdraw from the Miss Universe pageant in Israel. Chief Mandela’s appeal was polite, simple, and clear – don’t go to apartheid Israel.
We expected the Miss South Africa of a democratic free South Africa to simply withdraw on the basis that Israel is clearly committing gross, systemic and horrific human rights violations that amount to apartheid. We thought, if they felt it necessary, Miss South Africa would do some research and when they found out that the host city, Eilat, was built on the ruins of the Palestinian town of Umm Al-Rashrash, they would withdraw.
How wrong were we? Instead of doing the moral, obvious and right thing the organisers embarked on a co-ordinated counter-attack, trying to label Chief Mandela as a bully and accusing anyone asking for a boycott of Israel of being uncaring for dreams of Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane.
The response shocked South Africans across the board, getting attention from several civil society organisations and leading to more calls for miss South Africa to withdraw. After some outcry we received reliable information that Mswane was going to withdraw and we thought sanity had prevailed, bringing a quick end to this storm in a teacup.
In a shocking turn of events, the chief executive of Miss South Africa, Stephanie Weil, announced that Miss South Africa was going to participate in Miss Universe despite the public outcry.
Weil’s strange behaviour sparked a massive outcry. Mswane’s voice was absent. Miss South Africa was being unmasked before our very eyes. Weil spoke with such arrogance and authority, even calling the people wanting Miss South Africa to withdraw, “a small group”.
This provoked South Africans and opened a can of worms. First, organisations with a combined membership of more than five million members (including Cosatu, the EFF, Aljamah, Psayl, Africa4Palestine, Cosas and and the Muslim Youth) called for them to withdraw.
South Africans were reminded that during apartheid, Miss South Africa allowed only white woman to participate, and how black South African woman had to represent South Africa as “Miss Africa South”. We remembered how, during apartheid, Miss South Africa was used as a pretty face, promoting and normalising apartheid South Africa to the world.
We remembered how, in 1976, nine participants withdrew from Miss World in support of the boycott of apartheid South Africa. The public outcry grew a life of its own and our government finally announced its withdrawing of support to Miss South Africa.
However, most damning was the realisation that Miss South Africa is privately owned by Nine Squared, a company Wiel owns.
Nine Squared does business with apartheid Israel and the controversial extremist group Jewish National Fund. Weil used Miss South Africa to undermine our country and to further her extremist political agenda, rendering the Miss South Africa brand worthless.
This week, we learnt that Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane, is essentially an employee of Nine Squared, no longer a Miss South Africa and certainly not an ambassador for South Africa but a face of Nine Squared.
* Bram Hanekom is a board member for Africa4Palestine.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.