Zim model bares all in book
7 May 2018
…laments sexual harassment
…suggests scrapping of lobola
FORMER Miss Tourism contestant, Minnie-Lee Tagwirei, laments how young girls have fallen prey to sex predators in return for financial support in her new book titled Down South.
The 31-year-old former Miss Kariba and 2009 Miss Tourism contestant described how girls were sexually abused by the big wigs using their political and financial muscle, which prompted her to move to South Africa where she is a waitress in Cape Town.
Minnie-Lee, who once appeared in a local soapie Estate Blues, opened up in 174 pages of her book narrating her life in both Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively.
ABOLITION OF LOBOLA
She also gave her opinion on lobola where she wants it to be scrapped.
“Moving to South Africa before the 2010 FIFA World Cup was the most exciting thing I had ever done and it was nerve-racking but super exciting,” said Minnie-Lee.
“Everyone talked about how the World Cup was going to change the way other continents perceived Africa and it was going to boost the tourism sector immensely.
“I was fresh from college. I had just been a Miss Tourism Zimbabwe contestant a year before and I had walked the runway and done some acting.
“However, financial challenges became a hiccup. I would struggle to buy a decent pair of stilettos, but at the same time rubbing shoulders with the ‘who’s who’ (elite class) of Harare.
“Most girls I worked with became concubines to ministers and other wealthy Harare-based businessmen.
“This was mostly because they all wanted to maintain their model standards; having Gucci bags, red bottoms and epicurean cars.
“Most of these men were very abusive and they were being rumoured to have HIV-positive statuses, but girls did not care.
“Life of a model is hard already and worse still, the Zimbabwean economy did not make it easy for them.
“It was not hard to get a job but most of the times, one simply never get paid and there is nothing as hard as trying to maintain your image without earning what you would have worked for.
“Girls wanted to be taken care of, but unfortunately, an average man could not do it, so most girls ended up associating with sugar daddies.
“I was hot-headed, very ambitious and most of all, I wanted to be independent. I had always dreamt of leaving home and start a new life on my own,” wrote Minnie-Lee.
The former Miss Tourism narrated how culture limited her to look for greener pastures when economic conditions were unfavourable.
“When a prominent modelling agency in Johannesburg replied my application, I was ecstatic and I remember telling my aunt that I was moving to Johannesburg and she was not impressed,” she said.
“She wanted me to stay at home, look for a job and work saying girls don’t leave home according to our Shona culture.
“She advised me to stay at home until I get married and move in with my husband saying that is what is expected from women.
“My aunt said leaving home or moving out was an abomination, it was culturally unacceptable. “The only way a girl would leave home is if she gets a job in another city, then parents would have no choice but to let her go.
“Moving to a big city like Johannesburg, where I was going to be on my own, just made my aunt very uncomfortable and she was terrified,” she said.
Minnie-Lee narrated how most people joined Christianity to get answers from God when political environment became tense and education going into an abyss since graduates like her failed to get jobs.
“Leaving home was nothing out of the ordinary well, except that I was 22 years old and I was going to solitarily start a new life in the biggest and most dangerous city in Africa,” wrote Minnie-Lee.
“Most people younger than me had already left and 16-year-olds were crossing boarders into neighbouring countries to fend for themselves.
“I was desperate to start a new life, I was privileged for I had gone to university and completed my degree.
“I wasn’t leaving home because there was no food on the table, I was leaving because I wanted to start a life of my own.
“I wanted a chance to follow my dream and at that time my dream was to work and stay alone and be able to buy whatever I wanted without bothering anyone.
“I hated depending on people, I wanted to depend on myself and stand on my two feet, and of course, I wanted freedom.
“I wanted to be alone and work on my life and give it some meaning, my dreams had been stolen and thwarted by greedy politicians.
“Even though I wasn’t willing to commit to a modelling career, it was a good way to start a new life.
“I was going to get a job whilst I was working, so I thought. I have always wanted to study law, I even took Divinity, History and Literature in English for my A’ levels hoping to study law afterwards.
“After obtaining ten points, the University of Zimbabwe didn’t accept my application, I found myself studying something else.
“I was sad at first but happy later on when I realized that law was not as glamorous as it looked on TV.
“Media was going to give me what I wanted. It was fulfilling, and it was fun. I loved it, I felt at home. I really enjoyed studying Media and Mass Communication,” wrote Minnie-Lee.
She narrated her experiences in a foreign land where men and women would share a room as they looked for jobs until she finds one at a restaurant and racism.
“Working at the restaurant turned out to be so much fun. I got to know more about this foreign land that was so different from where I came from.
“The more I learnt, the more I got amused and the more I felt the need to say something, however falling in love with South Africa was inevitable.
“I love puzzles, and it felt like a big puzzle that I need to piece together. I also realized that referring to it as the rainbow nation was very ironic.
“I earned enough to take care of myself, despite everything and I continued to work as a model here and there as I did a lot of promotional modelling.
“I kept on sending my CV (Curriculum Vitae); not once did I forget that I needed a real job, I needed to do something that I studied for.
“I didn’t tell my friends at home that I was a waitress. If anyone asked, I would tell her that I was a model.
“It was embarrassing to be a waitress after graduating from college and back home I had done an attachment for a magazine, worked for a PR company, did a film, I had been a guest on a soapie, the previous year I had been one of the Miss Zimbabwe contestants and I had done a lot of fashion shows.
“Being a waitress was not cutting it for me but I had no choice, I needed rent and food or else I would be homeless whilst I was job hunting.
“Another option was to go back home and do nothing. I decided to stay, besides I was loving my independence.”
Minnie-Lee, proud of her dark skin, narrated how she met a friend Nozi who liked changing her complexion.
“When I started working at a company, I met a friend and she was one of those people I went to when I had problems and she would help me.
“I noticed that she was very light skinned but she was too fair and suddenly noticed that it wasn’t her natural complexion.
“I asked her what she uses on her face and she said, “Extra Clear,” and pitched it to me. She said I was very pretty but I would look prettier if I was lighter.
“I told her I was happy with my complexion but she wasn’t convinced, she thought everyone would be happier and prettier if they were lighter in complexion.
“I remember when I first met Nozi, she had asked me why I was so dark, I had told her it’s because my dad was so dark.
“Nozi was already light skinned, however I noticed that she mixed her creams with Caro Light and I had never asked her why but it just bugged me how most African women do not embrace their skin tone.
“It took me a very long time to accept the colour of my skin. When I was young in primary school, I was bullied for being dark, I had all kinds of nicknames just because I was dark skinned.
“I remember an incident when my friend, Constance, told me that if I drink hot water I would become lighter skinned.
“I got home from school and asked my mom to boil water for me because I wanted to drink it and be light like all the lighter skinned people around me.
“My mum told me that I was beautiful just the way I am, but I wasn’t convinced. If everyone around you tells you that you are dark and ugly, you start believing it, especially if you are a child,” narrated Minnie-Lee.
She shared her love life and described how single women are looked down upon by married women.
“I have witnessed damaging relationships; some even go to the extent of fighting with other women in order to keep their men. That is not for me I do like to fight that battle.
“My whole life I have always known that marriage was not for me, I am not patient enough and I quit so easily.
“I hate depending on another human being for happiness, where my emotions are concerned I just make sure that I control how I feel not the other person.
“I have an auto protect from pain and most of the time I can see it coming. I wish it worked though, I always run but the heart wants what it wants, it’s never easy.
“Looking back, I had sacrificed a lot to make my relationship work and it did not get me anywhere.
“I had actually thought that I could live happily ever after, living my own fairy-tale. Fairy tales aren’t for girls like me because almost every other man I fall in love with turns out not to be a best jigsaw fit.
“I felt used, taken advantage of. He took my heart and shattered it into a million pieces. It took me a very long time to openly talk about it.
“After leaving the relationship, I was single and a mum. That on its own brought new challenges.
“In South Africa not so much, every other girl I knew had a child or two or three, it was normal. No one cared, people used to be surprised at work when said I don’t have a baby.
“However, it was different when it comes to my fellow countrymen and my relatives, having a child out of wedlock is a big deal, and being a single mum is seen as a form of moral indecency. Single mums are shamed in the society. Somehow, people see them as outcasts; they don’t just fit in perfectly.
“Married women with cheating husbands perceive a single mum as a threat. They believe single mums are potential instant small houses to their husbands.
“They hate the confidence single mums have. It takes a lot of courage for a woman to walk away, I know this because I experienced it. It took big balls to actually say, “Enough is enough I can’t deal with you anymore.
“I am going to be on my own.” I have seen women carrying their heads up high because their husbands paid lobola (bride price) for them.
“They endure all kinds of disrespectful behaviour from their husbands just because they are Mrs.
“That title and those surnames of their husbands mean everything to them. Being a married woman is an achievement to them and they fight all the small houses with a passion because they are the married ones.
“Sometimes I really wish some African women could stop being so narrow-minded and stop depending on men for their own sanity.
“Then comes the issue of roora or lobola (bridal price), personally I don’t even see why we have to be treated like some sort of goods that are traded for money or cattle.
“Some shallow-minded men who pays roora (bride price) will always look at their women as some kind of furniture which they purchased, thus they can do whatever they feel like because they bought the wives.
“Not all men do this but most of them do. I am all for African tradition, but I don’t see how roora contributes to the welfare of women besides degrading them into mere commodities. “Unfortunately, women who have greedy parents suffer the most because their parents charge exorbitant prices.
“At the end of the day, these couples start a marriage at zero and struggle for a while until they become financially stable again. I would love to see the abolishment of this degrading system.
“Africans judge women too harsh for being single mums. Growing up I never thought I would actually be a single mum, but I could not tolerate being with a man who disrespected me on every level.
“Does that not count for strength? No woman applies to be a single parent, but circumstances happen.
“Most single mums just happen to be strong-willed and independent and society does not like that, especially in Zimbabwe.
“If you are a single mum, somehow you have declared war on married women. Women are each other’s worst enemies.
“According to Shona culture, a woman should stay in her marriage no matter how hard it is. Our grandparents accepted polygamy and they think men have the right to cheat since it is in their DNA.
“Personally, I think this way of thinking is what caused the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS in this continent.
“A wife would know that her husband is being promiscuous and if she leaves and goes back home, she will be told that she must go back for they take it as an invalid reason to leave her husband.
“Almost every man cheats, imagine if all women would leave their husbands for cheating, it basically means there would be few marriages or there won’t be any marriages; that’s what they say.
“That’s true, I do agree, however I also think if a woman wants to stay, then let it be on her own terms not her family.
“If a woman wants to leave, then she should leave on her own terms too. This whole interference from our families is really uncalled for sometimes. It destroys us as women. At the end of the day, a lady will be in it because they are scared of what people would say.
“Sad to say most African men do not like to use protection. They have given the virus to their innocent unsuspecting wives who in turn had to live with the consequences.
“For most women who have contracted HIV, it was from a husband or a loyal boyfriend, thus after I left my baby’s daddy, I took it upon myself to work.
“There is nothing as embarrassing as being a degreed waitress, or degreed call centre agent. I and millions of other Zimbabweans ended up doing things that made us look like people who are desperate and not intelligent enough to be better.
“As the country lost its value, we lost our value with it. Our pride diminished. The world looked at us differently. Witnessing this smooth transition of power made me teary, I could not believe it.
“I would love to go back to Zimbabwe and set myself up there and run my business from there.
“I won’t have to worry about my baby growing up noticing her blackness and wondering why some kids treat her differently. She definitely won’t experience that in Zim,” wrote Minnie-Lee.