HARARE - Detractors of Mary Chiwenga, who took over from Kiki Divaris as chairperson of the Miss Zimbabwe Trust three years ago, have every reason to liken the former model to a bull in a china shop.
Several Miss Zimbabwe queens and beauty industry stakeholders have found Chiwenga’s cash-rich reign at the national pageant a difficult one to stomach.
Mary, the wife of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantine Chiwenga, with the help of a Miss Zimbabwe Trust team that includes military personnel like Colonel Jeffrey Jenje, has shown no fear to make unpopular decisions.
Bongani Dhlakama, who was Miss Zimbabwe when Chiwenga took over, was the first to be shown that it was no longer business as usual at the national pageant.
Dhlakama was Miss Zimbabwe for two years because Chiwenga said she needed a whole year to put the Miss Zimbabwe house in order.
The whole of 2013 Chiwenga refused to work with Dhlakama though she was still effectively the national queen.
The former Midlands State University student was left out in the cold and was told to do whatever she pleased without the Miss Zimbabwe Trust’s blessing.
Dhlakama, who, under normal circumstances should have crowned the incoming queen, was not even invited to the 2014 pageant where one had to fork out $300 to attend.
“I wasn’t invited to the finals; in fact there was never any communication between me and them. All the updates I was getting were coming from the press.
“I read that they wanted me to contact them if I wanted to be part of the process,” she told the Daily News on Sunday in May last year.
“No one from the new Miss Zimbabwe Trust told me about the 2014 Miss Zimbabwe finals.
“Maybe if Kiki was still active, I would have been contacted but there are new people running the show.”
Due to the side-lining of Dhlakama, when Thabiso Phiri was crowned as Miss Zimbabwe 2014, her predecessor was not present.
It was like the pageant, that has produced beauty icons like Angeline Musasiwa and Shirley Nyanyiwa, that was being launched for the first time.
If Zimbabweans thought the crowning of 22-year-old Phiri as Miss Zimbabwe in June 2014 during a colourful pageant held at Harare’s Mabvazuva Village would signal the return of glory days at the beauty contest, they were in for a rude awakening.
Just two months into her reign, Phiri quit following a nude pictures scandal.
She was then replaced by Catherine Makaya.
But after clashing with Chiwenga, Makaya was booted out unceremoniously for alleged indiscipline.
Tendai Hunda was thrown in as the new national queen four days before Miss World 2014 where she, as expected, performed dismally.
In just five months, the embattled Chiwenga had crowned a record three national beauty queens.
The hive of confusion at Miss Zimbabwe under Chiwenga’s watch has not let up.
Emily Tatanga Kachote (25) who was crowned Miss World Zimbabwe 2015 was axed early this month over alleged nude pictures that have not been proven to exist.
Kachote will be replaced by first princess Annie Grace Mutambu who is expected represent Zimbabwe at Miss World 2015 to be held on December 19 at the Crown of Beauty Theatre in Sanya, China.
The drama at Miss Zimbabwe has riled some key players in the modelling industry who accuse the Chiwenga-led Miss Zimbabwe Trust of vindictiveness and unprofessionalism.
Wilbert Rukato, who runs Size 4 modelling agency and is a member of Modelling Industry Association of Zimbabwe (Miaz), claims that the Miss Zimbabwe Trust under Chiwenga has sidelined them.
“The work of modelling agencies world over is to do pre-screening, sustained model profiling and work as pageant consultants so yes we have to be involved,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.
“And did you notice that the models were dancing on stage and the music they were modelling to was not appropriate.
“That was because they were coached by Hilary Indi a wedding planner and dance choreographer.”
Rukato added that the chaos reigning at Miss Zimbabwe is because the local modelling industry is being excluded.
“When Chiwenga took over from Kiki, agencies were on board and had already made headway in terms of scouting and other logistics.
“A new board was then constituted effectively shutting us out,” he said.
“They just came up with other names into the board and did not take into account all work already put in place.
“We were in the organising team as Miaz and I guess she has her own vision but if you remember when she ran Miss Harare there were scandals and even then she went it alone.
“And Mary is not the most tolerant or easiest person to work with.”
Efforts to get a response from the Miss Zimbabwe Trust on Rukato’s allegations proved fruitless.
Chiwenga referred the Daily News on Sunday to the national pageant’s communications and production manager Tendai Chirau whose phone was continually unreachable.