Six models who took part in this year’s Otjimukandi Fair started a petition with the hashtag #OtjimukandiFairMustFall over unpaid compensation, which resulted in a chaotic altercation on social media earlier this month.
The Otjimukandi Fair, held at Okakarara from 4 to 6 May, is an Ovaherero wedding fair that enabled exhibitors to highlight their specialities as decorators and tailors, while portraying how a wedding is conducted and what should and should not be done throughout the ceremony.
Although many people commended this year’s event, some models who participated have expressed dissatisfaction with the organisers, who they claim have not fulfilled their promises.
The models accuse the organisers of mistreating them, failing to pay them for their work, and insulting them.
Some exhibitors also say they made extreme losses despite paying a lot to be able to sell their goods.
One of the models, Tuarirovangu ‘Queeny’ Kasirua, claims that despite the fair’s arrangement with the models for this year’s festival, they did not receive proper food services all weekend and they were forced to look for lifts back to Windhoek on Sunday at their own cost.
Kasirua says the agreement stipulated that models would not spend any money except for their engagement shoot.
“But as models, we’ve accumulated bills we didn’t plan on. We had to spend money on expenses that weren’t disclosed to us,” she says.
Another model, Jessica Menongongo Kaiumu, claims that the organisers swore at them and abused them.
Kaiumu says it appears the organisers want to use the platform to benefit themselves, allegedly misappropriating money from sponsors and failing to pay models, performers and security guards.
“They not only conduct this debt-related event, but they also keep deceiving the media by portraying a false picture. Many people, even young business owners looking to use this platform to expand their operations, have been abused and mistreated,” says Kaiumu.
“I’ve shared stalls with them but last year I made a promise never to do so again. I can overcome the extreme rudeness of organisers. I’m simply so relieved that this was said. They should do better, but we’re not trying to drag them down,” says a former stall owner who preferred to remain anonymous.
Uatengapo Tjirondero, one of the organisers, says all payments for the first and second editions had been made in full following good attendance of the events.
According to Tjirondero, they wanted to expand and take the event to Okakarara this year for the first time, which saw the expenses skyrocket.
“As promised, we gave the models a deposit before we left for Okakarara, with the promise that we will give them the balance of the money at the end of the event, but the event was a huge flop, and we made a huge loss.”
Tjirondero confirms that they failed to pay the models by the end of May, but says they are making every effort to do so by the end of September.
“For food, we offered them breakfast, meat, and even raw meat, so they could cook with anybody they wanted. The kitchen was short-staffed and running behind schedule, but they still managed to take them out to lunch,” Tjirondero says.
She says models were transported to Okakarara and the entire team was scheduled to be picked up on Sunday.
“However, it (transport) only arrived between 18h00 and 19h00, and by that time the models were unable to wait and arranged their own transportation.
“This is an educational event, with the goal of preserving and fostering our culture. Since we rely on gate attendance, our main challenge is obtaining corporate sponsorship. As a result, we must pay for the project out of our own pockets and the pockets of a select few others who believe in the initiative.”
She said the organisers apologise for the payment delays and are making every effort to pay everyone in due time.