The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
ON Tuesday 19 October, Chipo Mandiudza was crowned as Miss Tourism Zimbabwe (MTZ) 2021.
Her crowning was not accompanied by the usual fanfare that is usually the hallmark of past coronations.
This on its own, caused a flutter amongst those with an interest in the crown. How had Mandiudza been chosen, some detractors quipped, after all, they had never seen her walk the ramp.
The organisers were quick to fire back. This was a coronation taking place in a year in which, only a few months earlier, a pandemic had grounded the whole nation, with most events cancelled or postponed.
With all things taken into consideration, Miss Tourism was lucky it had found its queen at last and as the reigning queen, she was meant to represent Zimbabwe at a global pageant on 15 December.
However, two days later, Mandiudza’s reign came to an end that was even more unceremonious than her crowning.
She was resigning, a statement she released said, after the emergence of nude pictures, now seemingly the cemetery on which many modelling careers are routinely buried. No one has brought evidence of Mandiudza’s nude pictures as yet.
“It is with humility and regret that I step down and cede my reign as Miss Tourism Zimbabwe 2021. The past two days have been both a win and lesson for me.
I thank you for the honour that had been bestowed upon me but I am stepping down because of bad publicity that I feel will further hinder both the MYZ brand and mine, therefore I apologise to the organisers and Zimbabwe at large, for the inconvenience caused. As I step down, I will continue focusing on my studies as a marketing management student and my modelling career,” the letter Mandiudza wrote read.
However, a few days after she was dethroned, Mandiudza has made a U-turn.
According to the model’s manager Godwill “G-Factor” Tasunga there were no nude pictures in the first place, with screen grabs from a raunchy display on Instagram Live by Mandiudza used as the smoking gun to relieve her of her crown.
“We would like to nullify the false nude picture allegations because there are no nude pictures of Miss Chipo Mandiudza. Miss Chipo Mandiudza was cornered and manipulated into writing a resignation letter, a protective stunt to the license.
The MTZ is an event meant to empower women not turn them into monsters for behaviour that is unquestionable in men yet judged and demonised in women.
She made decisions in her past that on the face of it seem terrible yet the MTZ forget that she is but a young woman living in the age of social media where youth articulate their hopes and dreams. There are no sacred cows nor are there any saints in the modelling industry. And the MTZ board should be called out for its failure to support and protect a poor young woman from the poor heartland of Zimbabwe’s second city,” he said.
According to Tasunga, the MTZ organisers failed to protect Mandiudza who was subject to intense cyber scrutiny and criticism after her triumph.
“They have given nothing for all her efforts. No prize money, no emotional support beyond fake assurances of support yet no public support. If anything, they have joined the bandwagon of misogynists, sexual predators, tribalists and judgmental armchair critics who all have no clue how rough and tough the world of beauty pageants really is.
“We feel the MTZ is an empowerment event that brings out the raw talent in young women from all sorts of backgrounds. Chipo is no different… in fact her life is a reflection of most young women in Bulawayo who strive to use their God given attributes and talents to make headway in life.
The fact that the MTZ board chose her amongst all other competitors is testimony to her physical and emotional beauty. She did not participate in a physical pageant and yet the organisers selected her amongst her peers as being the future standard bearer of the brand,” he said.
According to Tasunga, Mandiudza was coerced into writing the letter by pageant organisers who, as they panicked from the public scrutiny over their selection of a winner in unclear circumstances, decided to use her as a scapegoat and strip her of her title. Mandiudza is a student at Lupane State Univeristy.
“They merely announced Chipo as the winner to the chagrin and despair of other contestants, stakeholders and the general public.
These parties were genuinely aggrieved and they correctly took issue with the way the MTZ board carried out its mandate on this occasion. Chipo’s qualifications and qualities were challenged and vilified in the court of public opinion.
She felt bullied and demonised for a decision not of her making. The MTZ board comprising majority women and former models did not lift its finger to explain its decision-making processes to the public.
The board did not even stand by Chipo when she suffered tribal and sexual slurs and other vilification. She was alone in a position that she had sought and by sheer hardworking had won,” he said.
MTZ chairperson Sibusisiwe Dube said she had initially been against Mandiudza’s decision to step down but had eventually agreed as it was her personal choice.
“The coronation was done on a Wednesday but due to certain challenges I was unable to attend. On Thursday I was working with her, trying to help her release her Press statements on who she is because people were still trying to know her.
This is all happening in the space of a few days. On Friday, I hadn’t even gone through the letter that she sent me and I told her to relax as she didn’t even need to speak to the Press at that moment.
“She was crowned on Wednesday, the pictures emerged on a Thursday and on Friday she sent me a resignation letter.
These things happened within 72 hours. What was I supposed to do? Say don’t step down? What if she had better reasons and knew why she wanted to step down? So, I couldn’t say to her just hang on there because we handle pressure differently as people.
I just didn’t understand why she did but I said I respected what she had just done and she had just made our jobs easier. There was no longer any need to sit down and work out how we were going to move forward,” she said.
Dube said it was only later that Mandiudza revealed that she had written the resignation letter against her will. In a conversation with Sunday Life, Mandiudza indicated that she had been “coached” into writing the letter.
“On Saturday, she called me very early in the morning and I told her I was going to call her at 9:30 which I did,” Dube said.
“She was saying it wasn’t her call and I didn’t understand that when she had willingly handed me the letter. I’m in Harare and so I told her to come here but unfortunately her mum has not been feeling well and she hasn’t gotten the chance to do so. She said she might be able to come on a Monday because we need to have a one-on-one discussion with her and understand what she says when she says it wasn’t her call.
“Momentarily as it stands, as the chairperson of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe I don’t have a relationship with her but she did send me a letter saying that she is stepping down. Everything that is coming up, people saying you should have done this and you should have done that as the board, please let us consider that these things happened within 72 hours,” she said.