Opinion

KENNETH MOKGATLHE: Govt owes Miss SA an apology for withdrawing its support

KENNETH MOKGATLHE: Govt owes Miss SA an apology for withdrawing its support

Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, is an embodiment of resilience and bravery. She was able to secure a second-runner-up place at the Miss Universe competition in Eilat, Israel this week. This, despite an attempt by naysayers who did everything possible to discourage and pressurise Mswane from competing in this extraordinary international meeting.

Our government was quick to withdraw its support for Mswane, siding with anti-Israel organisations which label the Jewish state as an “apartheid” state. However, we have come to see the power of social media as Mswane received enormous support from ordinary South Africans, hence she was able to resist the pressure from politicians and other influential personalities in this country.

It goes without saying that the government, through the minister of Arts and Culture (Nathi Mthethwa) should offer an unconditional apology to Mswane and to the entire country for behaving like a tyrant and failing to show the world that South Africa is a true democracy.

What do we mean by democracy? It means that an individual who happens to have political power can advance his personal preferences through his office without any justification or logic. A referendum should have been conducted for South Africans to have their say, because we know, through social media, that the general population supported Mswane and wanted her to participate in this year’s Miss Universe pageant in Israel.

An organisation known as Citizens for Integrity has also called on Minister Mthethwa to apologise to Lalela.

“Mr Minister, Lalela’s reputation and standing are far more advanced now than they could even have been had the bullying and attempts to force her to withdraw from the Miss Universe pageant been successful. You offered her nothing but threats in South Africa. You would have left her with nothing, except a lack of dignity,” said Mark Hyman and Willie Hofmeyer.

It makes sense that had the government supported Mswane, she could have done much better than she did in this beauty pageant. She was nevertheless able to attain these outstanding results against all odds.

South Africa’s politicians are often failing to stick to politics, that is efficiently running their country but are able to jump into matters which do not need their input.

During his time as the minister of Police, Mthethwa presided over police who killed around 34 mineworkers and injured others to an extent that they would never be employed again. However, his moral compass did not tell him to resign as a sign of remorse to the families of those who lost breadwinners. This disqualifies him to teach anyone about morals and ethics. He did not resign because he was selfish and did not want to lose power as an individual.

Mswane was able to advance her dreams as well as those of her country. What we know is that she will always represent this country as an ambassador of peace. She taught us about the importance of standing up for peace. She will be able to speak with authority to advance peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict and throughout the universe (including Africa).

South Africa, as a country, is known to have resilient people who for many years fought against colonialism and apartheid. There is a new generation of citizens who will defend their right not to be bullied by the government and Lalela is one of them. We are currently being led by a group of incompetent people like Mthethwa and principled individuals will continue to show resilience. They are not impatient as we know that one day we will get the government that we deserve.

Young ladies who are being subverted or undermined in any way should emulate Mswane by refusing to listen to politicians, especially men, who are hell-bent on abusing their political office for their nefarious agendas. It is so disappointing that we have not heard the women/feminist movement coming out in defence of Mswane and the entire Miss SA as an organisation.

Many of us who believed in Lalela and have defended her against pushback from anti-Israel lobbyists are celebrating Lalela’s outstanding achievement. Had the government supported her, would she have emerged as Miss Universe 2021? There’s certainly an argument to be made that this might have been the case. Irrespective, Mswane has risen to the top without their support and has achieved outstanding results. Beyond her current title, she has a bright future ahead of her.

She has picked unemployment as one of the issues she would like to tackle. She has already pledged 10% of her cash prize to her #BeReady campaign that she has initiated. This speaks volumes about her and her commitment to making the change. In her final interview, she urged young women to choose “courage over comfort at every opportunity they get”. She has already done this and in so doing has become a role model for our country. Mswane will be remembered for the positive impact she has had on our country way longer than any of those who have attempted to bully her.