On her return home from the Miss Universe pageant on Wednesday, Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane was met with cheers and jeers at the OR Tambo International.
Some in the crowd chanted “Free Palestine” others warm wishes and congratulations as she entered arrival hall.
Mswane, who was crowned the second runner-up in the pageant, then held a media press conference where she made a statement about her controversial decision to take part in the pageant held in Eilat in Israel.
The Israeli government has been heavily criticised for its treatment of the Palestinian people. And the South African government withdrew its support of her entering the pageant.
At the start of the press briefing Mswane became emotional and wiped away her tears before addressing the crowd, saying she felt overwhelmed.
Mswane said she was in despair and thoroughly disappointed about the lack of support she received from the South Africans. “I felt abandoned. I also felt anger because I don’t know what I did that was so wrong.”
She added: “I’ll never comprehend what I did to make people feel so justified in their actions. You don’t have to be for me but you don’t have to be against me, or wish death upon me because I made a choice.”
“I never initiated any war, this is way bigger than me. All I did was pursue a dream of mine.”
Mswane said it was amazing to be home as she has “ missed South Africa”.
“I even missed our taxi drivers, I feel like they create ambience. I miss that stress in the morning, they just cut you off,” she said jokingly.
Mswane said although she knew being crowned Miss South Africa wasn’t going to be smooth sailing, she didn’t expect a baptism by fire.
“I was somewhere in between. I was hoping for the best but also expectant of every bad thing. I feel like I got every bad thing that came from one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
The Miss SA winner said when she decided to compete in Miss Universe it was to proudly represent South Africa at the world’s biggest pageant.
“I wanted to make my contribution in the coming together of amazing women of different walks of life, from different countries ... uniting to effect positive change in the causes that we’re all passionate about and that we advocate for.”
Mswane describe the pageant an enriching experience although she began to question whether participating in the pageant was the correct choice as she became concerned about her and her family’s safety.
“When I made that decision, it no longer became about me but also my family and the safety of those I love.”
She added: “To receive death threats and not be able to sleep, I don’t think I prepared for the competition. Being third is the biggest win I could achieve and I am extremely proud of myself.”