Pageant sponsor defends Mzembi

HARARE - Bigtime Strategic Group — the main sponsor of Miss Tourism Zimbabwe 2016 — has accused some “corrupt” models of trying to create a rift between him and the pageant’s patron Barbara Mzembi.

Justice Maphosa, the director of the South Africa-headquartered company, blamed the confusion rocking the pageant on models trying to “extort money”.

“We have seen where the confusion is and what created a lot of problems for us and the patron . . .  there are genuine invoices and fictitious one.

“The people (models) that require money are the people that are trying to extort us. There are people that are trying to make a quick buck.

“It was seen that there is a giant from South Africa bringing in so much money and ‘therefore I think there is a way to make a quick buck’. . .  and that makes me angry,” Maphosa told journalists at a press conference held in Harare on Thursday.

Maphosa, who was recently quoted by a local weekly complaining about possible corruption at Miss Tourism Zimbabwe, appears to have had a change of heart.

“There is no money missing. We have accounted for each and every cent we brought into the country.

“We brought in our auditors and we have requested for all documents of outstanding payments so that we can clear them.

“The verification process is ongoing on some of the invoices that are outstanding . . . we will pay people that are credible and verified,” he said.

Maphosa blamed some models for failing to understand terms and conditions of his sponsorship deal with Miss Tourism Zimbabwe.

“My sponsorship was a one year contract only for tuition and only for people enrolled in institutions.

“Some models were not registered in learning institutions and we will not pay their tuition,” he said.

He attacked the models for rushing to the media with their complaints.

“Jumping the pageant patron to me or the media will not solve anything.

“In our culture, the child is not allowed to jump the gun to speak to the father but should first speak to mother . . .  We should not take away the patron’s job. I have my responsibilities and at the same time patron also has hers,” the BigTime Strategic Group director said, adding that the “rogue models” had in fact strengthened his friendship with the Mzembi family.

“The Mzembis are my friends; we get along with each other so well.

“However, I am very happy to tell you that in this instance our friendship has been tried and tested and we are more than friends even today after all this.

“When I requested for the books, the doors were open and we brought in our own auditors to verify the books the doors were open. . . .  we were allowed to go everywhere and do interviews with whoever,” he said.

He, however, said his friendship with the Mzembis won’t be used as an excuse to flout the terms of the sponsorship agreement he entered into with Miss Tourism Zimbabwe.

“I said when we started the programme that if things go wrong guys let us hold each other to account.

“If I don’t do what I promise to do, hold me to account and when you don’t do what you promise me, I will hold you to account as friends for the betterment of Zimbabwe.

“Even today, I have uttermost respect for her (Barbara Mzembi),” said the South Africa-based businessman who also sponsors the annual Gwanda Gospel Festival.

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