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Zozi Tunzi decries 'heartbreaking' violence and corruption in Africa

22 October 2020 - 14:48 By bobby jordan
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi in Cape Town on Thursday.
Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi in Cape Town on Thursday.
Image: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi on Thursday lashed out at the “heartbreaking” violence and corruption in Africa and appealed for unity to tackle problems on the continent.

Responding to questions at a press conference in Cape Town, after her return to SA from New York, Tunzi said she had battled to watch recent events unfold while being stuck in the US during the Covid-19 lockdown.

“Africa is literally burning down,” she said with reference to news unfolding on social media. “So many horrible things are happening, not just in South Africa. In Nigeria, in Zimbabwe, so many other countries where there is corruption, abuse, people dying, bloodshed over corruption and money.

“Just terrible, terrible governance around the whole continent. It was heartbreaking to watch from a distance, especially because there is nothing one can do as one person.”

She urged people to add their voices to those seeking an end to human rights abuses and social injustice, “because change eventually does happen if we speak up”.

Flanked by current Miss SA Sasha-Lee Laurel Olivier, Tunzi was speaking at the Table Bay Hotel, where she will be a judge at Saturday’s Miss South Africa 2020 pageant.

She said her own reign as Miss Universe 2019 — she was crowned at the 68th Miss Universe pageant in December in the US — had been framed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and she spent a large part of it in her New York apartment with her flatmate, Miss USA.

Travelling the world doesn’t make you a Miss Universe. It’s your hard work and voice that makes you a Miss Universe.
Zozibini Tunzi

“At first, when they were asking us to stay at home, I thought this is going to be easy. After a month, even weeks, it became difficult because we missed that human interaction.”

She lifted her spirits by singing, taking videos, and connecting with her family (virtually).

After an initial adjustment period, she realised the lockdown was an opportunity to engage in different ways — and possibly more broadly than she might have without the pandemic. The global upheaval also allowed many to see society’s fault lines more clearly.

“It really showed us the flaws we have in the world. It was a way for us to open our eyes to these things and see how ridiculous they are — for example the flaws in our health and education system,” she said.

The lockdown had also helped her appreciate her own resilience. “It was a very different reign from what I would have imagined. I think I was able to do a lot with it,” she said.

“Travelling the world doesn’t make you a Miss Universe. It’s your hard work and voice that makes you a Miss Universe.”