By Bakang Mhaladi
Gaborone - Only three of 12 Miss Botswana finals contestants had confirmed participation in the pageant by Tuesday, just three days before the national beauty pageant is held on Saturday in Gaborone.
Controversy has swirled around the contest, with accusations of maladministration, resulting in the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, taking the competition under its wings. However, the ministry has distanced itself from the competition, instead, only coming to ensure that last year's winners were paid. This was as a result of a standoff between the winners and organisers, the Botswana Council of Women (BCW).
But there is fresh controversy as contestants continue to shun the competition. The organisers said the main aim for this year's show is to "re-launch and build trust in the Miss Botswana brand" which has suffered from negative publicity in the past.
Last year's winner, Nicole Gaelebale took forever to receive her prize money, amid allegations of financial impropriety by the organisers.
The top 12 contestants from last year's show had been invited to take part in this year's grand finale.
But only three, minus last year's winner, had shown interest in a contest that is expected to come up with Botswana's next representative at the Miss World pageant, which takes place in Sanya, China in December.
However, hopes of a good showing at the global event have been dented, as preparations for the local competition have been shambolic. Despite the underwhelming response, the organizers are adamant the Saturday show will proceed as planned.
"From the beginning, we had said even if one person turns up, the show goes on. We are not cancelling this pageant because paying for the Miss World license is not a joke," one of the organizers, Basadi Masimolole told the local press this week.
"We did our best and went the extra mile to bring all 12 contestants on board. At one point the number was at seven, but at the last minute some withdrew and we were left with two. However, there is one contestant who has shown interest and the number is now at three."
There have been outcry from the public that event is not worth the P1500 ticket price, but Masimolole argues, they have to foot the bill from their pocket.
"We were willing to drop the P1500 price but we have to fund the event. We need to pay for production and entertainment. To stage a proper event, we need a minimum of P200, 000," she said.