Sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa will not apologise to Miss SA Lalela Mswane for government’s decision not to support her at this week’s Miss Universe pageant.
On Monday Mswane finished second runner-up at the event held in Israel, behind winner Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu and Miss Paraguay Nadia Ferreira.
Her participation was marred by controversy, with politicians and civil society calling for her to take a stance against Israel concerning that country’s conflict with Palestine.
Government pulled its endorsement of Mswane, with the department of sports, arts and culture claiming the Miss SA Organisation did not seem eager to appreciate the negative impact of representing the country in Israel.
While many celebrated her grabbing a spot in the top three, the NGO Citizens For Integrity penned an open letter to Mthethwa, saying it was not too late for him and government to apologise to Mswane.
The CFI, which took the ministry to court regarding its decision to withdraw its support for Mswane, asked if Mthethwa would “greet Mswane on her triumphant return to SA”.
Approached for comment, the minister’s spokesperson Masechaba Khumalo said the department had issued a statement last month explaining its stance on the pageant “and we stand by that position”.
Reflecting on the storm that erupted over her participation in the event, Mswane told The Jerusalem Post her “soul would not have been at peace” if she had skipped the pageant.
“Certain people have put me through hell and back. It has not been the easiest thing to deal with. But I choose to be optimistic. The way everything unfolded reminded me of His greatness and why I’m here.”
Mswane told her followers she had made a decision to “choose faith over fear and follow what felt right and good to my soul”.
“I am filled with so much appreciation and gratitude for all the love and comfort I received in support of my pursuing something extremely important to me.
“To my beloved family and friends, thank you for being unwavering in your love and support of me. My heart appreciates all of you.”