Miss Zimbabwe pageant, an uncomfortable political event

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The prestigious Miss Tourism Zimbabwe beauty pageant was on Sunday morning (February 13) hijacked by the military and Zanu PF officials who scrambled to honour the winners.

Malaika Mushandu (18) of Harare was crowned Miss Zimbabwe in the early hours of Sunday morning. Malaika will represent Zimbabwe in the Miss Tourism International pageant later in the year.

‘Angel’, her name in Swahili, beat 33 other contestants from around the country and walked away with prizes worth US$22,000, including US$3,500 in cash.

The event, which was organised under the theme “Promoting Peace through Tourism”, came in the wake of a spate of violence unleashed by pro-Zanu PF supporters in the country.

In the lead up to the night, an uncomfortable bevy of beauty queens were told to spout Zanu PF propaganda before competing in the national contest after having met with President Mugabe’s millionaire nephew, Phillip Chiyangwa.

Mr. Chiyangwa is reported to have caused panic in the ranks of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe hopefuls when he quizzed them on ZANU-PF history and reacted with fury when it appeared that the girls did not know the answers.

The 33 girls were asked to detail the structure of Zimbabwe’s defence forces, to name five people who started the country’s war for independence and to identify a chief of defence in the 1970s guerrilla army.

“You should know the country’s politics!” Chiyangwa told the stunned contestants.

“Our leader is Robert Gabriel Mugabe and you should like him and his administration and pay attention to his gatherings. If you want to be our queen, play ball with us,” he said.

On the final night, the show was delayed by nearly three hours as organisers waited for the arrival of politicians who were to crown the winners. And as a result of the delay, the winners were finally announced around 2am (Sunday).

And although eight beauty queens from African countries were present at the finals and could have done a better job by crowning the winners, according to observers, it is the jostling by politicians and military to crown the girls that became the highlight of the show.

Miss Zimbabwe, now known as Miss Zimbabwe, was renamed in the hope to use the pageant to market Zimbabwe, which had become an international pariah due to its questionable human rights record and an uncertain political atmosphere.

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