SOME models who participated at the recent Miss Zim Gold Mashonaland Central pageant have made sensational claims that the pageant’s chairman, Ceasar Kufandiko sexually harassed them during a boot camp.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
A bevy of 17 beauties drawn from different parts of the province such as Mt Darwin, Shamva and Mazowe were joined by some models from Harare as they participated at the second edition of the pageant that was held at Wadzanai Cocktail Gardens.
Several models who spoke to The Standard Style on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation opened a can of worms as they accused the pageant organisers of unprofessionalism.
The models claimed that Kufandiko continuously pestered them for sex, which he allegedly said would be in exchange for the Miss Zim Gold title .
The sensational claims were made in WhatsApp chats between the models and Kufandiko. Kufandiko allegedly asked the girls for sexual favours and demanded nude pictures from the models.
“Can you come early before boot camp so that you can entertain me,” Kufandiko allegedly said in one of his many chats to one of the girls.
One of the victims said: “Miss Zim Gold is not a standard beauty pageant. It is a music show for the Shamva gold miners.
“The pageant organisers are just wolves who pretend to be promoting modelling, yet the truth is that they are duping aspiring models as they have other agendas.”
Another model said they were ill-treated during and after the boot camp with models from Harare being labelled prostitutes after they turned down the sexual advances.
“When we met for the boot camp we were 17 and we were given two rooms with only three single beds as they assured us that it was just for that arrival day,” the model said.
“But they kept saying they were sorting the accommodation issue, which was never addressed for the rest of the boot camp at Chipayi Hotel in Shamva.
“A day before the grand finale for the pageant, we rehearsed until the early hours of the morning in a hall that had visibly drunk men who were said to be the sponsors.
“We had no privacy, as Ceasar would come into our room with a team of men he claimed to be the pageant partners, saying he had to introduce them to us.”
Another model said she turned down Ceasar’s request for her nude pictures.
“I decided not to participate at the pageant because of the level of unprofessionalism that was showed by the pageant chairman,” she said.
“He asked me to send him my nude pictures and that is when I discovered it was not worth it.”
She said they were labelled a mean group of models that did not “treat” the pageant organisers well.
“This is not the first time Ceasar has evaded paying the models. We participated at another pageant that was held in Bindura in October and we are yet to receive our money,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment from Kufandiko were fruitless as his mobile phone was not available and he was yet to respond to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.
However, Modelling Industry Association of Zimbabwe deputy president Wilbert Rukato blasted organisers of the pageant, saying there was need to protect the image of the profession from “vultures”.
“It is worrisome that our modelling industry has some predators who are in the habit of soliciting for sexual favours from models in exchange for meaningless titles,” he said.
“These so-called pageant promoters are also ill-treating models during their hastily-arranged events and equally deplorable boot camps, which we are saying must be stopped.
“Miss ZimGold pageant is one such case and I have called the organisers and asked them to honour all their pledges to the models, among them prizes and participation fees as well as to address all the issues raised by the models who participated at their pageant.”
He said there was a serious challenge across the country as many unregistered pageant organisers were mushrooming and fleecing innocent young models of their money.
“As Modelling Industry Association of Zimbabwe, we are calling for an end to the abuse of models,” Rukato added.
“I urge all models who have faced such kind of challenges to report the cases so that the industry gets rid of these bogus promoters, sexual predators, self-serving fund raisers who are in all truth dream-stealers.”
Former modelling guru and founder of Zim Gossip Models agency, Mercy Mushaninga said; “People are taking advantage of our industry and I believe it is high time people produced police clearance and licences before holding any pageant, or shows.”
“The models should also know their rights before participating at these pageants,” she added.
This is not the first time issues of sexual abuse have been levelled against beauty pageant organisers.
There has been a public outcry that local pageants have been hijacked by vultures who preyed on defenceless girls trying to earn a living through modelling.