A storm is brewing in the modelling industry.
Allegations of nepotism following the appointment of Barbara Mzembi to run Miss Tourism Zimbabwe by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority abound. She is married to Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Walter Mzembi.
And the Miss Zimbabwe Trust board of trustees is breathing fire. Led by Marry Chiwenga, the trustees are not amused by the arrival of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe which they see as an “unnecessary splitting of scarce resources” when the two could have actually worked together on one national pageant.
Trust spokesperson Tendai Chirau said they had been trying to get the Tourism Ministry on board for three years. Now the ministry had turned around and one of its arms, the ZTA, had picked the minister’s wife to run another pageant.
“We welcome the new pageant but there are some irregularities here. The Ministry of Tourism has never supported Miss Zimbabwe since we took over. What is the need for a second pageant when we can join forces and produce something bigger and better?
“Who is tourism in this country? Tourism is Walter (Minister Mzembi). Now we have his wife running that pageant with the full backing of the ZTA, itself, an arm of the ministry,” said Chirau.
Last week, Barbara Mzembi announced her arrival on the modelling scene with the rebranding of Miss Carnival to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe.
She has moved from being the patron of a pageant to actually running one.
But already on the scene is another heavyweight, Marry Chiwenga, who runs the country’s flagship pageant, Miss World Zimbabwe.
Away from the nepotism concerns, the Miss Zimbabwe Trust believes it should also get support similar to that given to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe by Government through its agencies.
Last week, Karikoga Kaseke, in his capacity as the ZTA chief, donated US$10 000 to Barbara Mzembi’s pageant.
“We run Miss Zimbabwe, the flagship of the country’s modelling industry, and surely we are entitled to such funds. They should not be for certain pageants only,” said Chirau.
Above all, Chirau said as the mother of all pageants in Zimbabwe, they welcomed and encourage competitions like Miss Tourism the same way they supported Miss Curvy and Miss Universities.
“We hope, though, that this rebranding is in the true sense of the word. Remember the Lungile Mathe debacle (see www.herald.co.zw/kaseke-mzembi-fight-over-model)? We do not want such issues in modelling anymore, that is why we are strongly for uprightness, why we need a ‘lady’ to be the face of Zimbabwe — someone who is dignified and professional,” said Chirau.
He added: “We have fought hard to restore parents’ confidence in the modelling industry, we hope we will not be taken back by this circus of Miss Tourism, Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, Miss Carnival and now back again to Miss Tourism. We are all about protection of the girl child. We are losing real Miss Zimbabwes because of a tainted past.”
The recently rebranded Miss World Zimbabwe has not been immune to scandal itself.
Miss Zimbabwe Trust took control of Miss Zimbabwe in 2013 and held its first pageant in 2014. The winner, Thabiso Phiri, was caught in a nude photo scandal and was replaced by Cathrine Makaya, who in turn was replaced by Tendai Hunda just before the Miss World pageant after she decided to go it alone for the Miss World competition. Hunda arrived in London a few days late, which affected her overall performance.
And last year, after a spectacular event, another nude photo scandal involving winner Emily Tatanga Kachote came to light a weeks after she was crowned.
First Princess Annie-Grace Mutambu replaced the dethroned Kachote. Amid all the commotion, Barbara Mzembi has remained calm, explaining her vision for the project.
Miss Tourism Zimbabwe is completely different from other pageants. We want a real ambassador who can market Zimbabwe and that person should be a holder of a higher education qualification like a higher diploma or degree in tourism or a related field. We are looking for ladies who can articulate themselves, who can market Zimbabwe, we are looking for beauty with brains,” she said.
Could this be a potshot at Miss Zimbabwe Trust?
Models have on numerous occasions struggled to answer simple questions in front of millions of viewers despite having rehearsed for the show.
Mrs Mzembi’s added: “So far we are saying the winner will travel the world and that exposure is something because she will go to at least six countries to participate in their tourism events marketing Zimbabwe and not just sit in the stands like a flower vessel.
“Last year I sat with different parties who used to run pageants and asked them about the problems and they told me they are not getting girls of the quality they want and accordingly I raised the standards. If we are not getting a lady out there who can go and market Zimbabwe then we are not doing the right thing.
“… our models or the nominees are not the standard models that other pageants are looking for. She will be Miss Tourism Zimbabwe but in actual fact she is the tourism ambassador. I want Miss Tourism Zimbabwe to be the dream of every girl.”
Her project has already received endorsement from a number of reputable corporate sponsors, among them Deloitte, Traverze, Meikles, Network Que, Black Opal, Gary Thompson and Associates, The Events Company, MABEL360 and DAYSMAN.
A board consisting of top tourism players to help run the pageant professionally is being created. Some of the members that have been shortlisted include Francis Ngwenya, Violet Rukande, Sabastian Benning and Blessing Munyanyiwa.
But Mzembi argues her pageant is not an elite affair.
“The idea is not to look for blue chip companies or Government to sponsor the event. We want all Zimbabweans who want to sponsor willingly to do so through a donation of a US$1 per year to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe. That is the difference of the pageant with other pageants. It’s not for the elite, it’s a popular pageant for everyone.
“. . . an outside institution, Deloitte, has been assigned with (the) task (of handling money). We have also established a committee for decision making which will help improve transparency.”
ZTA chief executive Kaseke said they were custodians of the pageant and the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe winner would lead their annual carnival. The jamboree was previously led by the Carnival Queen.
“ZTA was running the Miss Tourism Zimbabwe and then rebranded it to include Miss Zimababwe and we then handed it over to Mrs Marry Chiwengwa, I thought she was going to be here (at the launch of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe). We agreed with the late Kiki Divaris that we hand it over to her and she is doing well.
“… we invited Mrs Barbra Mzembi to be the patron of Miss Carnival in 2014 and she agreed. We later decided and agreed that she should bring back Miss Carnival to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe. What it means is this year we are not going to have a pageant called Miss Carnival but Miss Tourism Zimbabwe will lead the carnival,” said the ZTA boss.
The staging of two premier pageants should be a good thing for the industry — if it does not degenerate into a battle of the beauties.
There is likely to be a duplication of roles between Miss World Zimbabwe and Miss Tourism Zimbabwe title holders. The Miss World Zimbabwe selects a delegate for the Miss World competition. She and the First and Second Princesses are also supposed to compete in events to do with Brand Zimbabwe promotion within and outside the country.
But their scope could be limited by Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, who will perform more or less the same functions.