Irate Miss PE entrants want to know what happened to the thousands they collected
A Husband and wife duo – high-flyers on the beauty pageant scene – are being asked to account for tens of thousands of rands raised for impoverished children, with entrants asking why the money is shrouded in secrecy.
No strangers to these allegations, RoleModels Foundation bosses Juanita and Alwyn Smit have been accused by dozens of entrants and beneficiaries of a lack of transparency about pageant proceeds from as far back as 2013.
Last weekend’s Miss Port Elizabeth pageant was no different. Entrants say there was no official hand-over of funds and no final total on money raised given, with the winner of the 2015 pageant saying she was bullied when she raised concerns.
When Weekend Post asked for answers, the couple’s response was to send a lawyer’s letter.
RoleModels Foundation is a registered NPO managing about 40 events in the country.
Four Miss Port Elizabeth finalists said alarm bells started going off as the couple kept the total amount of money raised a secret.
The four women – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said they “felt used” after paying R350 to enter the competition, a minimum R750 “charity donation” as well as raising tens of thousands of rands in prizes and donations.
While the Smits claim the proceeds are paid to their NPO which sustains three preschools across the country, at least one of the beneficiaries, Imfundo Educare, a preschool in Malabar Extension 6, seems not to benefit.
When Weekend Post visited the school this week, the caretaker said the school received no money and was run on donations of food and supplies from retailers, titleholders and the public.
The Smits have rubbished the allegations, claiming the girls are “disgruntled finalists”.
Meanwhile, Weekend Post also spoke to 2015 winner Shannon Hutton, who echoed the claims, saying she had returned her crown after asking questions and getting no response.
The women said they had paid R350 to enter and given a R750 donation before their picture was added to the pageant’s Facebook page to obtain votes. They also paid R400 as a photographer’s fee.
The finalists were asked to approach sponsors for monetary donations and donated 10 gifts to be distributed as prizes.
They also had to sell tickets at R120 per person for the gala evening at the Athenaeum in Central this past weekend.
The girls said they had been expected to sell at least eight tickets at R80 per person or R50 per child for a Texas Rodeo-themed “high tea” at the Londt Park Sports Club on April 27.
They were expected to bring table cloths, snacks and decor.
They were also asked to donate prizes to be auctioned on the evening and paid towards the R3 000 hiring of a mechanical bull for the evening.
A finalist, who said she had sold 18 gala evening tickets, said the women had been asked to secure flowers for the winners, a DJ for the rodeo evening, a hairstylist and sound and lighting.
“From the interviews held at the Protea Marine Hotel, I thought this would be a prestigious event,” she said.
She said Smit had auctioned off a lollypop at the gala for R500, which was embarrassing.
She said entrants had also been asked to sell lollies for RoleModels Foundation’s “Poverty Sucks” campaign as well as Casual Day Takkie Tax stickers.
“I organised R5 000 but I do not know if [it] will reach the school. We still do not know how much was raised. There was no handover,” she said.
Another finalist said she had secured a sound and lighting person for the gala evening but had been shocked to learn the Smits had approached him for added services.
“They offered four free tickets and a free meal. He did not agree and Juanita’s husband, Alwyn, ended up doing the lighting. I feel it was all a scam. I am broke and my family is broke,” she said.
Another finalist said she had handed over R23 000 in cash and prizes – which included a R10 000 donation from a local government development agency.
“We do not know how much was raised. Everyone is raising money for this school but it is in such a bad condition. It does not add up,” she said.
Another finalist said she had given R10 000, while Hutton said she had raised R64 000.
After winning, Hutton secured a sponsorship of chicken for the daycare but said the Smits informed her cash was “the priority”. She also alleges she could not raise money for anyone but RoleModels and Imfundo.
Hutton said when she asked for financial statements she had hit a brick wall and returned her crown.
“Juanita posted on Facebook and said I was stripped of my crown. I sent her e-mails requesting her to take down the post. She ignored me. I am so disgusted. Every year kids are being exploited because every girl wants to be Miss PE,” Hutton said.
In 2013, Weekend Post published an article about the Smits being accused by Mrs Cape Town runner-up Anita Verster of stripping her of her title because she asked about the money.
The mother of a former Little Miss Port Elizabeth winner, Celeste Robson, also said the Smits had threatened to take her daughter’s crown away when she asked questions.
Weekend Post visited Imfundo this week and found a modest wooden structure, fenced off in a large yard. There were also two outside toilets.
The school has large rainwater tanks to supply water, three jungle gyms and no electricity.
Caretaker Theo Jacobs said the school survived on donations from titleholders and the public.
“We receive food from SPAR. We give the children breakfast once or twice a week. We also receive food from Woolworths so we send them home with fruit sometimes. All the crayons, books and paint have been donated,” he said.
He said he and his wife served as caretaker and cook respectively but were not remunerated. He said the school operated from 8am until 11am each day and had 27 children.
When approached yesterday, Imfundo Educare’s teacher and Mrs Nelson Mandela Bay Diane Johns declined to provide information about the school and its proceeds, saying only: “I completely believe in what RoleModels is doing. That is all I am willing to say.”