By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
27 June 2014
Questions have been raised over the direction of the Miss Zimbabwe Pageant, after this year’s event turned out to be an exclusive government and military affair.
The event was held at Harare’s Mabvazuva Lodge and cost Mary Chiwenga, the organiser and wife of army general Constantine Chiwenga at least $500,000.
University of Zimbabwe law student Thabiso Phiri took the crown, ahead of 14 other finalists. Phiri and her two princesses received luxury Chevrolet vehicles which however they will have to surrender back to the organisers at the end of their terms.
At least 460 people attended the event, many from government departments, parastatals and some private companies.
“The black tie and red carpet event lived up to its billing in terms of glitz and glamour and was beamed live on national television for five hours.
“Waiters and waitresses moved around the 46 tables non-stop. Sadly, only seven of these were paid for at the rate of $3, 000 per table,” the Sunday Mail reported.
According to the report Chiwenga, who chairs the Miss Zimbabwe Trust, paid for 39 tables through her company LaChelle Travel and four other corporate sponsors.
Organisers however defended the $3,000 per table tag saying this was meant to prevent ‘yobs’ from attending.
This sparked an outcry from ordinary Zimbabweans who felt that they were being priced out of what should be a national event.
Others accused the army general’s wife of over-generalising in saying that those with the means to pay the hefty fee are gentlemen and ladies.
Commentator Edgar Makoni said: “Deeply offended by Mary Mubaiwa’s assumption that those of us who cannot afford to pay $300 dollars on a beauty pageant are inherently rowdy.
“For most civil servants $300 dollars is the basic salary and not too many of them are willing to shell that out in one night. Does that make them rowdy?”
Many people also remarked on the militarisation of the pageant with the army playing a central role in providing the music and chaperoning the contestants.
UK-based former diplomat Clifford Mashiri said he was curious to know where Chiwenga had got the money from to sponsor the pageant.
“In a country where millions are going hungry one wonders where she got that money from. I would want to speculate that she used proceeds from the Marange diamond mining which is under the control of the military,” he said.
Mashiri also said that the $300 per head price tag also showed how out of touch and snobbish the rich are in Zimbabwe.
He said this was another example of how ZANU PF officials were expropriating every national event and turning it into an exclusive party affair.
“This was obviously meant to turn the pageant into an exclusive event meant for top society. The amount is a whole month’s wages for the average Zimbabwean.
“It’s a very mistaken assumption by Mrs Chiwenga to say that those who can afford to pay $300 to attend a pageant are not rowdy and those who cannot are.
“In the case of Zimbabwe people with loads of money are likely to be found in government and they are the ones who have caused untold suffering to the very Zimbabweans they are labelling rowdy,” Mashiri added.