The story of the country’s prime beauty pageant, Miss Malawi, has not been one associated with much pride and excellence.
When it was introduced in the 1970s, the political system then deemed it not worth the Malawian values and it was subsequently suspended by the one party administration of founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
When the country ushered in multiparty democracy, a lot of things opened up including the reintroduction of the pageant in the late 1990s.
Since then, several stakeholders associated with the running of the event have made their best efforts, but the pageant has not hit the expected pedigree. The beauty contest continues to face numerous challenges.
The pageant has been challenged on reputation, lack of consistence, proper funding and an absence of proper terms of reference for the office-holders.
The disorganisation that has marred the pageant has even created discord among previous participants of the event. Some of the previous crown holders refused to give Chill an interview on the pretext that they did not want their names to be associated with the pageant.
But one of the 2003/04 contestants Mabel Khonje, who emerged as Second Princess and eventually managed the event at some point, said the pageant suffers from lack of government and corporate sponsorship.
“This is a national event. The one who wins represents the country as a whole. It just needs support. It is a platform that offers a life-changing experience to those who participate and run the event as well,” she said.
To date, the rights of the licence of the pageant are held by Events Management Limited owned by Carver Bhima, who has been synonymous with the pageant for decades. He says organising the event is not as easy as it looks.
“It is not easy to deliver that pageant. When we get new promoters you find that they are coming short of some expectations. If it was not for my ailing health I would be doing it myself. I just encourage other promoters to do it,” he said.
Bhima says it has been hard to identify proper promoters since most of them are just interested in making money out of it.
He says: “The name Miss Malawi is protected that is why you can’t get it anywhere. Many people want to promote the event, but we look for the best and one with the required discipline. That is the practice worldwide.”
Events Management Limited will retain the rights until 2030 in a contract presumably signed around 2017 with the Malawi Government.
Bhima says the global Covid-19 pandemic did injustice to the event in the previous years.
Four years since it was last held, a new team of organisers has emerged with the promise of revamping the pageant.
On December 3 2022, a new Miss Malawi will be selected under the tutelage of Alpha Arts.
The new broom in the office, through its spokesperson Stella Chipo Gwaza, has promised to reinvent the wheel and set new standards for the pageant.
“We are working hard to put up a show that will be of standards similar to those of pageants outside the country. We will make sure the winner gets away with a decent prize and she gets all the support during her reign,” she said.
Gwaza said she can not comment and reflect on the challenges that have rocked the event in the previous years, but their goal is to improve the event and make it bigger and better.
She said they have reached out to a number of stakeholders that have been associated with the event and soon they will unveil a programme.
“In the first week of September we will announce the 39 contestants. We will have activities that will see us eliminate some contestants leading up to the final,” she said.
Tionge Munthali is the previous Miss Malawi while Alpha Arts is a multimedia company based in Blantyre.