Over the weekend social media sites were abuzz – Batswana were spitting venom towards South African, Nonhle Thema following her recent trip to Gaborone, just over a week ago which turned into a nightmare for the television personality following derogatory comments she is alleged to have made to a friend over the phone.
The Club 808 presenter was reported in a South African newspaper, Sowetan, as having described Batswana women as “skinny, ugly, and infected with AIDS, while partying at a night club.”
The paper quoted some ‘party-goers’ as having said they overheard the presenter making the remarks over the phone. “So astounded were the sources that they at first thought the Club 808 presenter was joking,” a report says, “ It was only when they heard the comment about AIDS that they stopped thinking it was funny.”
Thema and fellow South African and controversial self-proclaimed Queen of Bling, Khanyi Mbau, were in Gaborone to attend a gig at the Cigar Lounge in Phakalane. As part of her visit she also had a meet and greet with fans at Options’ Airport Junction branch where she promoted a shoe line, Madison, for which she was an Ambassador.
As soon as the allegations about her comments started filtering in, Batswana took to the social media including her twitter and facebook accounts to vent their anger at the South African.
The responses were mostly a tirade of unprintables. There were only a handful of not so explicit comments such as, “Don’t ever come back here again.” Another one advised her to “come take your shoes out of our country and sell them to your ‘healthy country’. We are too sick to wear stilettos, so you say.”
Options Botswana, it seemed, were also guilty by association. “The ladies in Botswana should not buy any of her products and Options should be held accountable for the people they endorse. Let us hit her where it hurts the most, her money.”
Others were however, albeit sarcastically, sympathetic to Thema with comments like, “Guys take it easy on her. She is intellectually challenged. Her IQ is very low. You cannot blame her for her disabilities. Some of these things cannot be corrected with medicine; it is what it is.”
In her defense Thema was reported to have said: “I was on the phone and talking to my boyfriend who was out of the country at the time, I was telling him about the girls where he was, I was just being a jealous girlfriend.”
But some of the readers were not sold. “The comment was unnecessary. It doesn’t matter who it was directed to. AIDS is no laughing matter.” Her follow up tweets did not help her situation either. “It has never been easy being ME…but my mom always says “If it ain’t you Nonhle …then who”….I know and understand my journey.” said Thema on twitter.
“I am a phoenix. I rise,” said another tweet. The bad publicity did not go down well with Options Botswana and Madison, The Heart of New York. The two released statements distancing themselves from the TV presenter. In an interview with Arts & Society Options Airport Junction Manager, Victoria Rajoina, said they lost a lot of revenue following reports of Thema’s comments.
“This past Saturday was crazy,”Rajoina said, “We had customers coming into the shop and venting their disappointments about the reports and our association with Nonhle (Thema).”She said Thema was not a Nando’s employee and as such it would be harsh to punish the retailer for her actions.
“She was just here to promote only one of the many brands we have in the store,”Rajoina said.
The store released a statement expressing their disappointment at Thema’s actions. “We are horrified to learn about the derogatory comments made by Nonhle Thema about our beautiful women of Botswana. Options were approached by her team to have a meet and greet while she was visiting our country and Options is in no way directly associated with her. We will be removing all Nonhle visuals, billboard and in-store material as soon as possible to stand united with our women,” the statement said.
It was a double blow for the South African as Madison also fired her as their Ambassador.
“We in no way condone derogatory comments against any sex, race or medical conditions,” their statement said, adding, “The trip which was undertaken by Ms Thema, was in her personal capacity, however being the ambassador for Madison, The Heart of New York, she felt it would be appropriate to address her fans and introduce the Madison brand as well during her trip……..We regret to announce that Miss Nonhle Thema is no longer the Brand Ambassador for Madison.” The company pledged R10 000 towards AIDS awareness in Botswana.