The Sunday Mail
IN 13 days, Miss World Zimbabwe returns.
Expect the bright lights, red carpets and all manner of glamorising that comes with such five-star events. Miss Zimbabwe Trust, organisers of Miss World Zimbabwe, are not the only ones who know how to use glitz to maximum effect: the people behind Miss Tourism Zimbabwe have recently become experts too. Last year they showed everyone how it is done with a premium event at the Harare International Conference Centre.
But, is this glitz and glamour from Zimbabwe’s foremost pageants a sign of growth or just finery without substance?
Miss World Zimbabwe and Miss Tourism Zimbabwe are some of the familiar brands that pop up when the local modelling scene is up for discussion. While both pageants have had their fair share of successes, they have also split the spoils when it comes to controversy, drama, beef and confusion. From multiple confusing rebranding to organisational chaos that has rocked these brands over the years, it would be difficult for a layman to differentiate the two pageants or what they stand for.
The attainment of Independence in 1980 saw the birth of Miss Zimbabwe as a replacement for Miss Rhodesia with Shirley Nyanyiwa becoming the first model to be crowned queen at the prestigious pageant. For a period, this was a top-notch event that many people looked forward to every year with the 1994 edition being one of the most memorable because the winner, Angeline Musasiwa, was just one step shy of being crowned second princess as she claimed fourth place at Miss World.
The turn of the millennium marked the end of the glory days as the once prestigious beauty fete began to lose its lustre with deteriorating standards being the order of the day. The 2002 edition suffered a big blow with organisers having to cope with trying to match the standards set by the Miss Malaika pageant, which had splashed US$3,6 million on their event. It was a disaster.
Then controversies started rocking the boat, with 2002 winner Linda Van Beek relinquishing her crown after falling pregnant. The pageant started struggling financially leading the Miss Zimbabwe Trust going to bed with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and rebranding the 2005 edition to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe. This proved to be a good year for Zimbabwe from a tourism perspective as the country went on to host the Miss Tourism World pageant, with local queen Olsie Muringai representing the nation.
After that triumph, however, the country failed to send a representative to the Miss World event, something that was attributed to poor planning. In 2011, the event was split into three categories, Miss Zimbabwe, Miss Tourism Zimbabwe and Miss Universe Zimbabwe with the queen, first and second princess claiming these titles respectively. While ZTA had a successful run with the modelling extravaganza, it also had its shortfalls with 2011 Miss Personality Lungile Mathe dethroned for what was termed “unbecoming behaviour” after it was alleged that she had stolen a watch during a sex orgy.
ZTA then withdrew from the union, which saw it rebranding back to Miss Zimbabwe with the Miss Zimbabwe Trust failing to host the 2012 edition. By 2013, the pageant was struggling to survive with the trust’s financial woes deepening.
Meanwhile, ZTA created another pageant, Miss Carnival, with the Carnival Queen set to assume the duties of Miss Tourism on the international stage, a task that was carried out by Danai Chipunza who won the inaugural edition. This was the year Marry Chiwenga was thrown into the fray at the helm of Miss Zimbabwe Trust with the task of bringing the pageant back to its former glory.
Unfortunately, the new boss’s tenure got off to a false start as the trust failed to both host the beauty contest and send a representative to the global stage that year. Having redeemed themselves the following year with a glamorous event at Mabvazuva Village in Msasa, controversy struck with the winner, Thabiso Phiri, stepping down under unclear circumstances.
Her replacement, Catherine Makaya, was dethroned before the end of her reign after a fallout with the trust, which saw Tendai Hunda taking over. Hunda’s nightmarish trip to London for Miss World is well-documented as she had roughly a month to prepare. Despite doing their best to host another successful event in 2015, the dethronement and replacement syndrome continued to haunt the pageant with the Emily Kachote debacle taking centre stage.
Last year, the event did not even take place as organisers failed to find the right calibre of models to take to the ramp. Miss Carnival rebranded to Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, hosting a world-class pageant under new management led by Barbara Mzembi.
The Miss Zimbabwe Trust has regrouped and is planning a massive comeback with Miss World Zimbabwe 2017 set for July 22 at Borrowdale Brooke Golf Course in Harare.
There has been talk of the country’s two major pageants merging, but that seems to be a non-starter at the moment.