The Miss Rural Zimbabwe pageant can usually be counted on to generate scandal or at least controversy - last year one contestant was allegedly impregnated by a deputy minister - and this year's crop of allegations has met or exceeded the standard.
Some high-ranking politicians and businessmen are alleged to have sexually abused the young rural women and some contestants allegedly were prevailed upon to pose naked for photographers said to be staff at the Chinese Embassy in Harare.
Women’s Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri last month urged an investigation of organizer and pageant founder Sipho Ncube-Mazibuko. After the Miss Rural Zimbabwe finals in Masvingo last week, contestants were reported to have been stranded after the organizer failed to provide them with bus fare home.
Two contestants took shelter with the Chitungwiza-based Girl Child Network, a non-governmental organization promoting action against sexual child abuse.
Girl Child Network spokesman Kamurai Mudzingwa told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that staff of his organization are awaiting the results of medical exams before they will decide how to proceed in the case.
Organizer Sipho Ncube-Mazibuko said she is the victim of a conspiracy to take control of her pageant. She singled out Zimbabwe Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer Karikoga Kaseke, accusing him of orchestrating the alleged smear campaign.
She charged that he sexually abused contestants and once walked into her hotel room at 2 a.m. Zimbabwe Tourism chief Kaseke could not be reached for a response to those allegations due to congestion on the mobile phone network he uses.
One pageant contestant who did not want to disclose her identity said she and other contestants were treated properly by Ncube-Mazibuko and other organizers.
The former contestant said she believes some of her former competitors are being manipulated to undermine the pageant.