The Miss South Africa Organisation is facing a backlash from some social media users over its decision to participate in the 2021 Miss Universe contest in Israel, with some critics calling it an apartheid state.
Israel has repeatedly dismissed accusations of apartheid.
The Miss Universe contest will take place on 13 December in the Israeli town of Eilat.
Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, is due to represent her country at the event.
On Tuesday the Miss South Africa Organisation posted a statement confirming she would take part in the December contest, despite what they called “unfounded and untrue” reports she would pull out.
“We are not a political organisation and The Miss Universe pageant is not a politically inspired event,” the statement added.
Social media users expressed their anger at South Africa participating in the competition, with politician Yoliswa Nomampondomise Yako saying South Africa should be at the forefront of “protesting” against it given the country’s own apartheid history.
I don’t know why Miss Universe would take place in Israel of all places. I also don’t know why South Africa hasn’t taken a standpoint as yet… with our history, it should be a given we would be at the forefront of protesting that BS.
— Nomampondomise ✊🏽🏳️🌈 (@YolzYako) November 9, 2021
So disgusted and embarrassed by @Official_MissSA @Lalela_lali who will be participating in the Miss Universe pageant in Apartheid Israel. You do not represent me as a South Africa woman and you most certainly do not inspire. Sies. #FreePalestine
— مَریَم Mariam (@GoddessMariam) November 9, 2021
Apartheid amounts to state-sanctioned racial discrimination and is considered a crime against humanity.
In April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel of committing apartheid against Arabs in the occupied territories and Israel itself.
Israel described such accusations as “preposterous and false”.
Gerald Steinberg, founder of the Jerusalem-based group NGO Monitor, told the BBC that the HRW report had chosen to “completely ignore and erase deliberately decades of terrorism and the need for counter-terror measures”.