The organisers of the Miss SA pageant insist that the supposed "exclusion" of black pageant title-holders who were crowned pre-democracy from Sunday's Miss South Africa 60th Anniversary celebration was not a deliberate snub. Instead, they say, it's a case of branding and archive challenges.
On Sunday, Tamaryn Green — a 23-year-old medical student — took home the crown during the pageant's diamond jubilee at Sun City. Winners from pageants other than Miss SA, notably, were not considered for the 60th anniversary.
Maybe it's a lot to ask, but it would've been so amazing to see the women who could not be Miss SA because of apartheid being honored. The ones who were crowned Miss Africa South. #CynthiaShange #PearlJansen #MissSA2018 pic.twitter.com/DsbcIHWInJ— Montsho the Black (@MmabathoMontsho) May 27, 2018
Speaking to HuffPost, events executive at the Miss SA office, Gareth Flusk, said the main reason for this was brand differentiation.
"The Miss SA brand under Sun International is different from the Miss Africa South and Miss Black South Africa brands — in fact, they were owned and managed by different organisations. So last night we simply celebrated the Miss SA title."
Flusk said the organisation understands why South Africans may perceive this as exclusion, but explained that they could only reflect on the history of the specific Miss SA brand as it stands.
The differing recognition of titles is something former Miss Black SA, Cynthia Shange also alluded to. "I was with Miss Africa South and not Miss SA; maybe they take it as a different title," she told Times Live, adding that she wasn't invited to the 2018 pageant.
Beautiful reminder of a trailblazer #CynthiaShange as the country selects a new #MissSA2018. She rocked! The #apartheid regime use to send 2 girls to the #MissWorld pageant: The black girl was called, #MissAfricaSouth & the white one was called, #MissSouthAfrica. Absurd times. https://t.co/9UjSY1rpme— Felicia Mabuza-Suttle (@Feliciamabuza) May 27, 2018
Some South Africans on Twitter were not happy about the lack of recognition of past beauty queens.
Especially as it wasnt by choice to be part of Africa South but by virtue of aparheid policies. For a black woman, for black people, winning Miss Africa South was as significant & closest to winning Miss SA. Would have been a gracious gesture to include all. Missed opportunity. https://t.co/WUxgnUjDvp— Kgomotso Christopher (@kgchristopher) May 27, 2018
I'm honestly so disappointed in @CellC & the #MissSA2018 organisers! They had an idea here & they really could have really ran with it to visually illustrate & stand for transformation. Everybody was watching, it's a huge missed opportunity!💔— FASHION ACADEMIC (@fezile_mdletshe) May 27, 2018
I skipped Miss South Africa tonight because there's another side to this 60 year old history and a range of queens who weren't represented on that stage today. South Africa due to apartheid hosted Miss South Africa and Miss Africa South. #MissSA2018 #MissAfricaSouth— Lynette Ntuli (@MsNtuli) May 27, 2018
Flusk acknowledged the country's unjust history — which caused the pageant to neither be inclusive or representative of the demographic of the country, but stated that the organisation is not intent on erasing that part of history.
In fact, he told HuffPost, the Miss SA organisation is now taking a step forward in being inclusive and is currently working on collating data from all South African pageant holders outside of the Miss SA brand — a task he said was almost impossible, owing to challenges with archiving of this data.
"There's a part of history where very little is written, and we're working on that."
Asked why the organisation did not embark on this task prior to the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the pageant on Sunday, he said the job was admin-intensive. "Historical inaccuracies go back to the Miss SA brand in the Fifties, when Adele Kruger won the title, so to find other organisations' details will take time."
He said that as soon as this job is done, they would ensure that this history is reflected in all the Miss SA celebrations moving forward.