For two years, the only time Malawi is tagged to a pageant is when Malawians in the diaspora host pageants. Malawians living in the UK, Ireland and South Africa have Miss Malawi UK, Ireland and South Africa pageantries respectively, where they crown their queens while back home there is none. The Miss Malawi crown has gathered dust and cobwebs from the shelf it has rested for the past two years after the tenure of the last Miss Malawi Susan Mtegha crowned in 2012 ended in 2013.
Although Susan Mtegha was able to go to Mongolia for the Miss World beauty pageant, she faced some setbacks including lack of travel insurance that she had to plea to the government when she lost her flight after she fainted at an airport in Beijing.
In an email interview with Chill, Miss Malawi 2002 Blandina Mlenga-Khondowe says beauty pageants are important since they are a representation of a modern woman.
“It depends on the purpose of the organising team. Modern organisers mostly look for beauty and brains and a winner that aspires to make a contribution to society,” she argues.
She says through the pageants, the beauty queens become influential, provided that the winners or competitors contribute positively to society through charity, social or environmental work.
She said the pageant helps build girls’ self-esteem and self-belief.
“I think one’s focus is about putting the title to good use and aspiring to accomplish a lot in bettering society while upholding a good self-image. This in turn inspires girls and women to follow suit,” she says.
She expresses concerns over the two-year break that the pageantry took, saying Malawi is losing out on visibility and a chance to win the Miss World.
“The competition trains contestants to show great commitment and integrity in carrying out ‘Beauty with a Purpose’. It is a fact that Miss World is a great role model to the youth and the Malawian youth are lacking great role models to inspire personal development in their lives,” she says.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa says his ministry is talking with stakeholders to make the event sustainable.
He says the problem the beauty queens were not on the runway for the crown this year was lack of will from the organisers.
“Government used to organise the event during the one-party era but it stopped organising the event so at the dawn of multiparty government, Caver Bhima registered with the ministry to hold the event. We are, however, reviewing on whether Mr Bhima holds absolute rights to the Miss Malawi event or not,” said Nankhumwa.
The minister says they are working with the Ministry of Justice in the review process.
He says the two-year absence of the event meant they have lost one opportunity to sell Malawi to the outer world.
“We also want to revive the system where we are going to work with the beauty queens in tourism industry,” says Nankhumwa.
Vitu Kamanga, whose firm Artistic Agency organised the event, denies being approached by the ministry on the issue concerning the pageant.
But he concurs with Blandina in bemoaning the absence of the pageant.
“We failed to hold the event the past years because of licensing issues. We did not have enough money to sustain the pageant and the private sector and government were not willing to help,” said Kamanga.
Bhima, who owns Events Management which is a firm with the rights of the event, says the reason they did not have the event for the past two years is because they did not find the promoters with the standards that they were looking for.
“We want to maintain the premium standards of the event and we cannot lower them just to have the event. We will keep looking if we don’t find the right promoters,” says Bhima.
The socialite says he is optimistic that the pageant will take place this year because they have been approached by two convincing promoters.
“To hold the pageantry, one has to be prepared for a budget of not less than K15 million. We also regulate the event to make sure that the organisers meet the standards. For example, quality of the contestants: Miss Malawi is for brains not blondes,” se says.
He bemoans the absence of Miss Malawi, saying the country has lost a chance.
“It is sad that every time there is a chance to shine Malawi loses. We have lost a chance to shine as a country during the silence. It is sad that Malawi only went to Miss World three times: in 2001, 2005, 2012,” he laments.
Like Kamanga, Bhima contradicts the minister, claiming ignorance with any dialogue with the ministry on the pageant.