In November 2011, Charlene Chidyamakuni made a bold decision to leave her job in Johannesburg where she worked as a clerk.
BY SILENCE CHARUMBIRA
The decision was bold given the constraints she encountered in securing a job in Zimbabwe where deaf people face challenges in securing employment.
But being gifted with a model’s frame, she braved it and journeyed across the Limpopo to Harare to prepare for the Miss Deaf Zimbabwe finals that were to be held on December 1 2013.
Little did Charlene and her mother know that they were to encounter a nightmare.
“We got into camp at around 7am on the day and had to go for the whole day without food,” she gesticulated to her mother who translated for her.
“Later on in the day we were offered a cup of tea and a slice of bread which was to be all the food there was for the day until the end of the event.”
Charlene won the crown but ironically, it brought her more misery than joy as all the blissful promises turned to be pie in the sky.
“For winning the crown, I got a fashion voucher worth US$100 but up to now even that has not materialised. My mother has had to go up and down following up on the dress and when we finally got the chance to see the dress we were shocked by the place we were taken to. The dress itself was another nightmare,” she said.
Charlene’s mother said they started noticing something was amiss when the organiser of the pageant Madeline Yohane disappeared on the night of the event.
“We even failed to get photos taken. She seemed in such a hurry and did not explain to us what was happening. As the parents we had been promised dinner if I am not mistaken, but the hotel told us we had to buy even drinking water,” she said expressing disappointment.
Yohane refuted allegations that contestants went without food on the day of the event in December claiming that they all had lunch comprising tea and sandwiches.
She said she was disappointed that the clothing voucher offer had not materialised as expected and said she hoped standing offers from the Czech Republic mission would be coming through.
Charlene and her twin brother Shelton who is also deaf were born on May 13, 1986.
Their mother and late father managed to send them to school at St Giles and later Emerald Hill where they both proved to be exceptionally intelligent.
At Emerald Hill, Charlene won modelling titles while Shelton showed great talent in art.
Their mother said the twins were also very brave children.
“At one time when I had travelled to Zimbabwe leaving them with their father in South Africa, robbers broke into the house and packed stuff they wanted. Charlene and Shelton were tied by electric codes and the robbers threatened to take Charlene with them when they were done,” she said.
“One of the robbers was Zimbabwean. The intruders who apparently did not realise the two children were deaf, kept forcing them to talk. But, despite the threats, they both did not to cry.”
She said Charlene does not want people to feel pity for her and makes sure her mother does not try to communicate with her in public where people will learn of her disability.