Former Miss Princess Zimbabwe pleaded for leniency on Monday as she faced jail after she was convicted for defrauding five young models of US$10,200.
The five models had been promised a dream trip to Dubai where they were to take part in the 6th edition of Miss Universe VIP World and the 16th Little Miss Universe Beauty pageant held from October 25 to 30 last year.
Mercy Mushaninga, 47, told the models that the money would pay for their air tickets, visa fees and accommodation, a Harare magistrate heard.
On the appointed date, the models turned up at the airport following Mushaninga’s instructions but the airline they were allegedly booked with said no tickets had been bought.
Mushaninga was convicted after a full trial by Harare magistrate Yeukai Dzuda last Friday.
In mitigation, she said it was not her intention to dupe the young models.
“There were some unfortunate circumstances which were not planned for. This incident also damaged my reputation,” she said.
“I would like to apologise to the models. I’m asking for leniency.”
Mushaninga narrated that she has been in the modelling industry for 15 years and has always advocated for the girl child.
“I have funded a number of models in the industry who have represented Zimbabwe,” she said.
During trial, Isabell Temani, the mother of one of the models, said her daughter suffered emotional and financial damages.
“My child was supposed to travel and suffered from depression. I had to find a specialist to treat her. She was subjected to mockery from other kids from school,” Temani said.
Temani said her daughter is still scared to take part in modelling events because of fear from the bad experience that she suffered.
“She went for some time without properly eating and she was isolating herself from other people,” she said.
Prosecutor Bornface Masvaire urged the court to consider that Mushaninga was remorseful.
“The accused has shown remorse. It should be noted that the victims of the offense suffered a negative impact… for the event that never took place,” Masvaire said.
“It is however important to protect these type of victims. Society must have confidence in the court and must know that the courts are there to protect them from such offenders.”
Mushaninga will be sentenced on Tuesday. ZimLive