KENNETH MOKGATLHE: There are no winners when beauty and politics collide


Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, is wrong to try to mobilise the world to boycott Miss Universe 2021, set to be held in Israel this December.

Mandla’s popularity seemingly comes from the fact that he is Nelson Mandela’s grandson. Irrespective of being an MP, nobody knows what exactly he stands for. He seems to be capitalising on the credentials of his grandfather because he does not have any of his own. Unfortunately, he seems to not understand what his grandfather stood for. While Madiba preached forgiveness and unity, Mandla preaches hatred against the Jewish community.

The reason for his call to boycott Israel is because, in his eyes, Israel is an “apartheid state”.

I find it difficult to entertain Mandela’s assertions of “apartheid Israel” because I visited the country myself in 2018. Having been there, I can attest to the fact that Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians co-exist together. As a black person, I was not made to feel like I was in Orania and I saw other Africans (largely from Ethiopia) being treated as equals. I saw no evidence of apartheid.

What is not possible to dismiss is the fact that there is an occupation taking place by Israel of Palestinian territories. This is being condemned by many countries, including many Israelis, and the US is among those who are trying to bring about a negotiated peace between the warring sides.

The question is then whether Miss Universe 2021 should be held in Israel or not? Mandela makes no substantive argument as to why it shouldn’t be, other than because he would like to see Israel “isolated”.

Rather than boycott the event, it would be better for Mandla to mobilise the participants of Miss Universe 2021 to preach peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, instead of spreading more hatred and division in the world, something which we do not need.

In a video posted by former Miss Iraq Sarah Abdali Idan, the chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council is called out for his divisive stance. “All I can say is: How dare you? How dare you, as a man, try to tell an organisation for women and women empowerment what to do.”

“This is an opportunity that millions of women dream of having. To go on the world stage and represent their people, their nation, their culture. Not government, not politics, and definitely not your political agenda,” Abdali Idan added.

The former Miss Iraq also congratulated 24-year-old Lalela Mswane after she was crowned Miss South Africa 2021, saying “I hope that you will enjoy your trip. And learn not only about Israel but about all these beautiful other countries. This is what the Miss Universe is about. And I hope to see you there.”

For many young, talented, and beautiful women, these types of competitions provide them with opportunities to shine on an international stage and make their families and the countries they represent proud. Yet, Mandla is asking them to postpone or give up their dreams because of his own, narrow political agenda. For whatever reason he wishes to punish Israel, he certainly shouldn’t be doing it at the expense of the ambitions of these young women.

Irrespective of their nationalities, women face the same struggles, and they need to unite beyond the borders of their countries. Miss Universe is a great platform to do this. The women and the organisations they represent should not be instructed by the likes of Mandla Mandela as to what they can and cannot do.

His grandfather, the late Nelson Mandela, once said, “Peace is the greatest weapon for development that any people can have”. Madiba was the embodiment of and symbol for peace throughout the world. Unlike his grandson, Mandela was an ambassador for reconciliation, and that is how he is known around the world. He was always ready to listen, even to his opponents, by mostly ensuring that dialogue was established to listen to both sides of the argument. Such a stark contrast to Mandla, who seems to want to subvert the ideas or political stance of those that he does not like.

If Mandla was really concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he would have surely called on the beauty pageant to look for ways to bring the parties together, rather than asking them to pick sides. And for not pick just any side, but the side he likes.

If Mandla would like to be relevant, he should rather speak out against corruption, incompetence, and maladministration of his own party, the ANC. There is enough mess for him to clear up right here in South Africa before he feels the need to jump in and help the Middle East.

Kenneth Mokgatlhe is an independent writer, social and political commentator. He holds a BA honours in political science from the University of Limpopo. A former PAC spokesperson, Mokgatlhe is currently studying teaching at the University of South Africa.

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