By Maynard Manyowa
A Zimbabwean man, Taremeredzwa Munzara was arrested Friday night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on charges related to a human trafficking case involving a South African model, police sources have confirmed to Khuluma Afrika.
According to the sources Tare Munzara was implicated by the South African model, who claimed she was made to travel to the Asian country under the impression she would participate in a pageant.
The woman claims she was then threatened with her life on arrival, and was told the pageant would not proceed. The woman was rescued after police from South Africa, working together with Interpol and local Malaysian police intervened.
According to South African Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, a joint operation led to the freeing of 14 other victims from other countries.
It is understood that the girls had travelled to participate in Miss United Countries, a pageant which Munzara is believed to be a director.
South African police confirmed that other directors within the modelling agency domiciled in Bloemfontein, South Africa, were under investigation, as they believed they operated as a syndicate.
The model (victim) is said to have been lured through the agency operating in Bloemfontein, and headed by a lady only named as Palesa.
The model agency however denies being involved in human trafficking, or attempting to traffic any women for prostitution or organ harvesting.
Other sources, close to Munzara claim that the celebrated director was involved in an altercation with the South African lady, which led to her spreading stories that she had been trafficked.
The pageant, Miss United Countries, which the model had travelled to and for did not materialize. Police believe there was never a pageant to begin with and that it was only used as bait to lure victims.
This is disputed however by people close to Munzara, the modelling agencies, and the pageant organisers.
Munzara’s sister, Miriam, stated that the pageant was cancelled and all models advised not to travel to Malaysia.
“The show was cancelled and emails and WhatsApp messages were sent to the contestants not to go to Malaysia anymore? but four countries said they only read their emails when they had already landed…”
Her view is supported by other peers as well. A source who refused to be named said that Munzara was being prosecuted on a racial basis.
“When he landed in Malaysia, he told me that the hotel which he had partnered with had racially abused him, and then cancelled their sponsorship, before denying access to any of the girls.
He would only speak or see them in the company of armed security guards. I suspect he had a romantic relationship with the South African girl and they fell out, leading to her raising alarms of human trafficking.”
South African police have stated that investigations are well underway, and they expect more arrests. They also reject this view firmly, with the Minister stating that the girls had no reason to lie, and that they had evidence that social media had been used to lure victims.
This is not the first time Munzara has been linked to a controversial pageant which has been cancelled at the last minute. In December 2013, a pageant he was linked to, Miss Heritage was cancelled after models had already arrived in Zimbabwe.
Malaysian police have said that they will only release details once investigations are complete. Tare Munzara would however remain in custody, according to the police sources.
- Maynard Manyowa is a journalist, and co-editor of Khuluma Afrika – a center for investigative journalism.