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Models warned on foreign pageants


Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Beauty Pageant Association of Lesotho (BPAL) has called on models to consult them before participating in international pageants as some of these could actually be traps to lure unsuspecting victims into human trafficking.

BPAL chairperson, Tlali Tlali, issued the warning in the aftermath an incident where a South African model was last week rescued by the South African Police Services from the claws of a suspected human trafficking syndicate in Malaysia.

Princess Mahlangu was duped into a fake modelling competition along with 13 other women from countries such as Thailand‚ the United States and Barbados. The ‘competition’ was advertised on social media.

She returned to South Africa on Sunday after a joint operation between Malaysian and South African police officials‚ which resulted in the arrest of two Nigerian and Zimbabwean national, Taremeredzwa Munzara in Malaysia.

“Models in Africa can easily fall prey to trafficking scams because they are too desperate for the limelight and due to the starvation paralysing our continent,” Tlali said.

“They are often lured into this false pageants through social media, especially Facebook. As much as Facebook is an effective and cheaper international advertising tool, it is important for girls not to fall for anything they see but consult in order to verify legitimacy.

“We have and will always continue to plead with girls to notify either us, the police’s Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) as well as the ministries of Foreign and Home Affairs who we work with when sending models to international pageants.”

He called for workshops to sensitise models about trafficking issues, saying the models would in turn be ambassadors creating awareness in their communities.

Tlali said his association were reviewing the legitimacy of the international pageants they had participated in before sending participants to this year’s editions.

“We have a very tricky situation on our hands because Lesotho has participated in pageants organised by Munzara (who was arrested in Malaysia) which were legitimate and successful.

“On the other hand, another Zimbabwean, Culvin Mavhunga who was accused of unofficially inviting models to South Korea in June, happens to be a board member of the Miss Heritage International pageant where we have to send a girl later this year.

“The two incidents that these individuals are accused of have compelled us to write to the World’s Pageant Association asking them to review the boards and standards of different international pageants,” Tlali said.

Nthatisi Thabane, a Trafficking in Persons Data Collector in the Ministry of Home Affairs, told this publication that they would do more to create awareness on trafficking.

“It has come to our intention that Human trafficking is escalating in the country especially amongst local models have nearly become victims of trafficking recently,” she said.

“After the South African Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) impersonator and the Korean sagas, we did radio campaigns with the beauty pageant association to sensitise the models.

Early this year, a South African citizen was accused of luring Basotho girls into South Africa promising them modeling jobs at the EFF but demanded sexual favours once they got to South Africa.

“Trafficking affects all social classes mainly the younger generation who are traded to make babies that are sold in the black market for adoption.

“We are currently mapping out how we will work with the BPAL as well as the police in developing more campaigns which will reach out to everyone about different forms of trafficking. This has become an international crisis therefore it is up to everyone to fight trafficking.

“We are also appealing to models to verify the legitimacy of any international gigs with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have noted that the perpetrators use social media to lure their victims which is something the youth should be aware of.

“It does not cost anything to consult the ministry or the CGPU for them to check with Interpol,” Thabane said.




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