BY GILBERT MUNETSI
A new beauty pageant that seeks to recognise rural values among young Zimbabwean women has been hailed by contestants as the best alternative to other competitions of similar calibre that were previously on offer on the local arena.
The Oil Castor Miss Rural Africa — a brainchild of Portia Maphosa — is different to the Miss Rural Zimbabwe founded by former model Sipho Mazibuko many years ago.
However, with the Covid-19 pandemic making it impossible for public gatherings, the Oil Castor Miss Rural Africa is being conducted in the social media space way, where contestants post their details and compete via a public voting system.
Among the areas for consideration are traditional dance, cooking themes and story-telling (folktales). According to the organisers, it will soon open to people outside Zimbabwe, but being of African origin. They stand to win the ultimate prize of US$1 000.
Bertha Chawatama, the competition’s July winner who was crowned on August 1, told of a period of anxiety as she took to social media to attract the much desired votes from friends, acquintances and people she never knew. An undergraduate of a social sciences programme at Africa University, Chawatama (24) hails from Gokwe, but currently resides in Gweru’s Harben Park suburb.
“The first time I heard about Miss Rural Africa was in May, just two months after the lockdown had been imposed. I love modelling, but what attracted my attention most was the monthly prize money of US$200 and thought should I win it, I would finish my mother’s house,” Chawatama said.
“I gathered all the requirements, retreated to our farm and took the pictures and video which were needed. Thereafter, I sent my link to all the groups that I am in, including church and school. In two weeks’ time I was leading with 200 votes, but I was determined to reach the 10 000 mark. My whole family played a huge part by sharing my link and, can you believe it, I even helped my grandmother open a Facebook page so she, too, could cast a vote for me!.
“In all platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) I made sure I was leading. This was the longest July I have had to wait, but it bore me fruit because with the prize money I was able to obtain a passport and do other things I could not have done had I not won,’’ she said.
As the competition opens up to the rest of Africa in September with the prize tag pegged at US$1 000, Chawatama said she was determined to give it a go again and take on the continent’s best.
And though she did not win, 21-year-old Ruvimbo Shonhe from Harare believes the pageant is an ideal platform to engage youths in the community who represent the female population, and to mould them into business-minded personalities who are both achievers and risk-takers.
Shonhe is a Geography and Environmental Science student at the University of Zimbabwe. She says though she did not come tops in Miss Rural Africa, entering the competition was a blessing in disguise as she has now been adopted by the company, Oil Castor, as an intern sales representative.
“My interests to contest were two-fold. First, was the fact that I am undertaking studies relevant to the line of business of the sponsor and, secondly, of-course, it was for the prize. Now as I retrospect, I find the decision has paid dividends in that I am preaching the gospel of the goodness of degradable products that improve the fuel industry sector in a way that is not harmful to the environment,” she said.
Also rubber-stamping the pageant was an August contestant, 20-year-old Nomsa Chitombo, also from the Midlands province. She said the identity of Africans was being lost and people acted like they did not recognise and identify with their rural livelihoods.
“Our [rural] practices are deemed backward and we seem to be embarrassed about being associated with any form of rural activities and lifestyles,” Chitombo said.