MultiChoice Zimbabwe, representatives of Big Brother Africa (BBA) in the country, have been accused of regional and tribal bias over the way they select housemates for the reality show.
So far, all seven housemates that Zimbabwe has fielded in the reality show are from Harare with most of them being Shona.
A Matabeleland-based group, Isilo SikaMthwakazi, has ignited a debate over the selection process arguing that it is not fair.
In a letter to MultiChoice Zimbabwe, Isilo sikaMthwakazis Sabelo Ngwenya wrote: We are gravely concerned by the fact that all Big Brother Africa show auditions in Zimbabwe have never produced any participant from Matabeleland.
For the record, all the past participants were either from Harare or members of the Shona-speaking tribes. Not even a single representative has been from Matabeleland, or a member of the various Matabeleland ethnic groups.
The letter goes on to read: Is this a coincidence or its just part of the well-known culture of marginalisation and discrimination against the people of Matabeleland that has bedevilled this country since 1980?
The group also demanded that Matabeleland should be entitled to send a representative to this years edition of the BBA series.
In the first BBA show held in 2003, Zimbabwe was represented by Harare-based public relations officer Tapuwa Mhere and in 2004, lawyer Bertha Zakeyo, also from Harare, hoisted the flag, followed by Munyaradzi Chidzonga who represented the country in 2005.
A year later, Itai Makumbe from Harare tried his luck followed by Kristal Culverwell before Chidzonga returned for Big Brother All Stars in 2010. Last year, model Vimbai Mutinhiri and commercial pilot Wendall Parson, both from Harare, carried the torch for the country.
Responding to Ngwenyas letter, Liz Dziva, MultiChoice Zimbabwe public relations manager, said housemates were chosen on merit.
Housemates are chosen on the basis of suitability as reality television personalities and people who will create excitement and interest among viewers, said Dziva.
She also made it clear that MultiChoice Zimbabwe was not the producer of BBA and had little to do with the show.
MultiChoice Africa does not produce Big Brother Africa, but provides subscription services to the multi-channel, digital, pay-TV product DStv. The reality show is produced by Endemol for M-Net, said Dziva.
The auditions are mostly conducted in the capital cities of each participating country. Time and budget constraints do not allow for extension of auditions to other cities.
She acknowledged there was always a good response from various cities in Zimbabwe at previous editions.
People from different cities do make the effort to travel to the audition centre and we appreciate that interest and effort.
Meanwhile, entry forms for BBA 7 will be ready for collection at the MultiChoice offices and the M-Net website as from Sunday. Deadline for the entries is February 27 and this years prize money will be $300 000.
Two people will represent Zimbabwe.