Seventeen-year-old Tebatso Tshuma should be meeting leading fashion designers in New York right now; being groomed for one of the world’s most esteemed fashion weeks. Tebatso would have been the first ever Motswana to participate in the New York Fashion Week, a prime platform that a debuting model could ever wish for that features world famous models. Instead, she sits in Mochudi, bleakly waiting for cellular network Orange, who were headline sponsors for the Botswana International Model Expo she won in September, to hand her the P25 000 cheque she won. The money would finance her way to New York for her international modelling career.
Tebatso won representation by Trump Model Management (TMM) and she expected to have left for New York on the 7th of January to get ready for the fashion week that starts on the 1st of February.
TMM Director of Scouting and Development, Duane Gazi, said after her victory at the Fashion Lounge, venue for the Model Expo in September, they had set on launching Tebatso at the New York Fashion week. TMM would then move on to Milan and other significant fashions shows.
Colin Nawala, who conceptualised the Botswana International Model Expo while at Marnox Media, told The Sunday Standard that Orange has not met their obligation after handing Tshuma a dummy cheque with her name written on it three months ago.
“I have been frequenting Orange for the past three months, occasionally accompanied by members of Tebatso Tshuma’s family, requesting that they pay Tebatso and we have never gotten a concrete answer,” Nawala told The Sunday Standard. “However Orange has extended a payment to Fashion Lounge and paid other costs but overlooked paying the winner,” Nawala said.
Tebatso’s mother, Nnena Tshuma, accompanied Nawala on his last visit to Orange for first hand information on why her daughter’s winnings are being withheld. “We were left unattended,” Mrs Tshuma said. “It seems that there are underlying issues between Nawala and Orange that should not be put against my daughter who is missing out on a chance of a lifetime.”
Karabo Tlhabiwe, Orange’s Public Relations Manager, said that Orange had been dealing with Marnox Media South Africa, adding that Marnox Media had sent Orange a letter stating that Colin Nawala was no longer in their employ, hence Tebatso’s non payment of her prize money, which would have been routed through Marnox Media.
Tebatso’s mother later called at noon saying Orange told her that the cheque would be issued to Tebatso at an event hosted at Fashion Lounge, a statement Orange confirmed, saying that they would have verified some facts by then.
Nnena is, however, not convinced after the three-month delay.
“Tebatso does not only represent the Tshuma family but Botswana as a whole.”
She is appealing to the Government, the business community, Department of Culture and Youth, Botswana Tourism Board, Debswana, the media and people of Botswana to help raise P25 000 to send Tebatso to New York.