The past week has been dramatic in the modelling sector as a result of Bigtime Strategic Group’s rescinding of sponsorship and subsequent crossing of the floor from the Barbara Mzembi -headed Miss Tourism Zimbabwe (MTZ) to Marry Mubaiwa-Chiwenga’s Miss World Zimbabwe.
The two pageants’ patrons have always been believed to be crossing swords and the frosty relations seem to have thrown spanners in the process of a merger as the sponsor had publicly suggested.
At a recent press conference Bigtime Strategic Group boss Justice Maphosa said the two pageants were considering merging into one flagship contest, but reports suggest that Mzembi refused, resulting in a fallout with the sponsor.
However, a school of thought suggests that fiery factional politics in the ruling Zanu PF party have apparently found way into pageantry as political influences from G40 and Team Lacoste are believed to be flexing in the background of the modelling industry.
The speculation is fuelled by the fact that Mzembi and Mubaiwa-Chiwenga are spouses of Tourism minister Walter and Zimbabwe National Army commander Constantine Chiwenga respectively who are believed to be loyal to parallel factions.
The pull out is also said to have inspired the Tourism minister to denounce the rebranding of the carnival which had been named “Bigtime Harare International Carnival” to acknowledge the new anchor sponsor.
The Standard Style reporter Kennedy Nyavaya (KN) caught up with Bigtime Strategic Group spokesperson Alson Darikayi (AD), who gave full details of what really caused the fallout between the “friends” (Mzembi and Maphosa), as well as their future endeavours as an arts sponsor.
KN: There is a lot of speculation and insinuations surrounding Bigtime Strategic Group’s recent pull out from the MTZ pageant. Can you please give us a detailed account as to what really happened?
AD: We proposed as the anchor sponsor a way forward in this world of pageants, as it is, there is rivalry within pageantry in Zimbabwe and choosing to sponsor the other leaving out the other is seen as waging a war with the other which obviously divides the nation. We as Bigtime Strategic Group do not want to sponsor activities that divide the nation, our view is that pageants should have united even though in their diversity and come together to produce one big national flagship pageant. However, our suggestions, views and positions were not accepted. As such, we looked at the value derived from the pageants as a business. We looked at reputation and the relationship going forward and we decided that it will be best if we pulled out [from MTZ], which we did. The unwavering commitment and dedication from Bigtime Strategic Group towards Zimbabwe as a country cannot be reduced to us pulling out. We remain committed to the country and also remain committed to other initiatives that enhance the image of the country such as the Harare International Carnival, Gwanda Gospel Festival among others.
KN: Some of the cited reasons involve misappropriation of funds along with alleged disorder in what the Tourism minister labelled a“smear campaign”. What is your position?
AD: At a press conference last year, we agreed with Miss Tourism Zimbabwe that we should sit together and put each other to account. One of the issues raised and a very important was to unite the two leading pageants into one big pageant. The issues and challenges we faced last year were addressed at a joint press conference. It is very normal for a key sponsor to be vocal on a number of issues, especially to protect and safeguard his personal and corporate brand. We tried to sit down and address, [so] that we avoid the recurrence of what happened last year; the issues and publicity around them thereof. About the smear campaign, we know nothing about any smear campaign. It is very clear and generally known that last year’s Miss Tourism Zimbabwe was indeed a resounding success and it did very well even for the minister’s campaign at UNWTO [United Nations World Tourism Organisation] campaign. The MTZ final, we sponsored and produced brought sanity around beauty pageantry in Zimbabwe and stood out as a model of how such events should be organised and run. We are very proud to have done that for MTZ and the patron, the tourism industry and the country at large. We have got no regrets whatsoever. Even you guys in the media, there was unanimity among you that indeed the event was world-class and very successful setting a new precedent for Zimbabwe. How then can it be a smear campaign now? Smearing who and what in the process? We do not understand what he means by that, maybe you may ask him, we were part of the press conference to announce our continued support for the pageant in 2017, barely a month ago as we prepared for yet another successful pageant. If we were on a smear campaign, why would we be a part of that; we would not have bothered. After all, Bigtime Strategic Group, gets no cent out of these activities. His [Maphosa] personal brand and that of the organisation is always at stake as we do any event in any country. We take pride in what we do.
KN: Mrs Mzembi was quoted in one of the dailies this past week threatening to take the legal route against your company. Was there a legally binding agreement between the two parties? And also, do you think there is some illegality in the sponsorship pull out?
AD: The Miss Tourism Zimbabwe patron is entitled to her opinion and it is her constitutional right to seek redress and or take legal action. We were invited by the minister, Honourable Mzembi, to come in and help his wife after they had seen success, stature, exceptional organisation and magnitude in our annual Gwanda Gospel Festival which they were a part of last year. The minister invited us to assist his wife who at the time was looking for sponsors to bankroll Miss Tourism Zimbabwe and we came and just did that. There was no legal contract, all we had together was a shared vision based on friendship and goodwill.
KN: If the “differences” and misunderstandings are ironed out with MTZ is there a chance of your partnership coming alive again?
AD: No, our partnership is done. We are happy to have participated in the first edition of MTZ, which then becomes our very last. We wish them well in their future endeavours; we harbour no ill-feelings around MTZ [and] we part ways amicably. They don’t owe us, and we don’t owe them.
KN: Are you truly sponsoring Miss Zimbabwe now, if so what inspired the idea?
AD: Yes, Bigtime Strategic Group is assisting Miss World Zimbabwe. It’s not a secret. Our motivation is still to unite all pageants in Zimbabwe towards one big pageant. MTZ is aware of our involvement in the discussion towards uniting the pageants. What we did for MTZ, we will do it for Miss World Zimbabwe as they also deserve sponsorship. We find them acceptable to our ideas and positions around pageants.
KN: Are we going to see another classic show in the form of Miss Zimbabwe, courtesy of Bigtime Strategic Group and generally what new feel have you brought to the country’s flagship pageant?
AD: Yes, you will see a different, classic feel and Bigtime touch around Miss World Zimbabwe just [to] ensure a good story comes out of Zimbabwe to the world. You just need to come and be there and see for yourself.
KN: There has also been another school of thought suggesting that politics is at play in the switch of sponsorship between the two pageants. Can you please give clarity on that?
AD: We are not political. We are a business and we do everything we do after careful consideration of the impact of those activities around our business. Politics is for those in politics and we are in business. Why is this question around Miss Tourism Zimbabwe being asked now? Why was this not asked last year when we came in with the sponsorship? Why now?
KN: Bigtime was recently unveiled as the new anchor sponsor of what has been rebranded Bigtime Harare International Carnival, but the Tourism minister suggested removal of the name “Bigtime”. Will that not affect your sponsorship deal of the event?
AD: We don’t care about names or what the carnival is called or branded into. We are not in it for bragging rights. If it was so, we would have had a very stringent, tough and binding contract that would ensure we have the naming and branding rights before we put in sponsorship. The honourable minister can be at ease, we are not going to pull out or withdraw our sponsorship just because of the carnival naming’s sake. If I may ask, what’s in a name? After all, we are doing all this for the country and not for names.
KN: With all these seemingly chaotic developments, is Bigtime Strategic Group still willing to continue funding the arts sector in the country?
AD: Zimbabwe needs assistance and moreso from its children from across the world. We are not going to shy away from helping or assisting the arts sector whenever there is a need and when we firmly believe, it’s got to be done.
KN: So far, Bigtime Strategic Group has sponsored a lot of events like the Gwanda Gospel Festival and now these pageants. What is the ultimate goal for the company and has it gained what it intended by pumping in all the money?
AD: Yes, we have gained the mileage out of our many corporate social responsibility programmes and activities in Zimbabwe. Our annual Gwanda Gospel Festival is actually an altar, tithe and offering to God for our group CEO, Justice Maphosa as is required of every Christian. Other activities are to assist fellow Zimbabweans to achieve what they have set themselves to achieve. Bigtime Strategic Group, as a business, has now moved into Zimbabwe. We are now in Zimbabwe and as such, our marketing funds are being channelled towards those activities through our diverse corporate brands. As a business, we feel we will derive so much value and achieve maximum mileage and visibility out of events such as the Harare International Carnival and other corporate social activities we are involved in. All these are good for market positioning, visibility and brand awareness in general.