If there is anything that has brought shame and ridicule in bucketloads to Zimbabwe, it must be the Mr Ugly pageant, which has attracted the global media’s attention.
Pageants are by their nature supposed to be a rich and spectacular affair, but all these attributes are missing from the Mr Ugly, which is derogatory and insulting for both the participants and the country at large.
While the organisers of the show might initially have wanted a few kicks, this pageant has now outlived its usefulness and should be canned.
We can only guess what inspired it, but at this stage the inspiration is irrelevant and unhelpful.
What is more worrisome is that there seemed to be a kerfuffle over who was the ugliest between the runner-up and the eventual winner and we wonder if this is what we have been reduced to, a country that squabbles over who the ugliest person is.
The pageant is extensively self-deprecating, flying in the face of the ethos of most Zimbabweans, a proud lot who – even in the face of insurmountable problems – soldier on, trying to forge a better future.
While some may find the pageant harmless fun and comic relief during the country’s trying times, discerning people should be appalled at and the damage it is causing to Brand Zimbabwe.
Most international media outlets on Sunday and Monday reported on the Mr Ugly show, not as a spectacle to be enjoyed, but with derisory scorn.
The pageant is stereotypical and clichéd and except for the few participants, we are certain most Zimbabweans will not miss it if it were canned.
There are more things to celebrate and we can expend our energies on other pageants that are struggling to get sponsorship, rather than this show that denigrates us and reduces us to a global joke.
As advocates of free speech and association, we cannot call for the banning of the pageant, but we believe there is a fair case for the organisers to can it, for the greater good of the country.
To add insult to injury, the pageant mainly attracts poor people, who are so desperate for money that they are willing to do anything they can just to earn a few dollars.
It is an indictment on the country’s economic policies that poverty has dehumanised people so much they are willing to be the butt of such a disparaging pageant.
The publicity it generates is not complimentary for the country and it ensures we continue to be the laughing stock.
It is also disconcerting that the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) thinks it is a noble idea to partner the pageant and add value to it.
We are gobsmacked how ZTA can describe this ghastly event as entertaining and interesting, when ordinary Zimbabweans can see that it is anything but.
The event attracted a lot of media attention, not because of its value, but rather in the same manner scavengers are attracted to the stench of a dying animal.
The media attention is driven by at best voyeurism, where the international community is puzzled at how people can stoop so low to celebrate ugliness.
We have to reiterate that we are not calling for any legislative intervention, but we hope the organisers may see the light and realise their pageant is more harmful than helpful.