Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi spoke exclusively with reporters ahead of Nelson Mandela International Day on Saturday.
Miss Universe says she has felt the spirit of Nelson Mandela through the various displays of humanity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She has confronted issues of race and racism since winning the crowd last December.
The win provided her with a platform to speak truth to power, including when it comes to the example of South Africa’s first democratically elected President.
“It is a very interesting time, this whole pandemic, especially being far from home and being in New York. I think just the spirit of Madiba I’ve felt during this time, a spirit of giving, a spirit of togetherness is something I have appreciated during this time. When we speak of humanity a lot of people have said we don’t have humanity anymore, it died a long time ago and I think during this time I think we were able to see that actually people still care, people are still able to be there for each other during tough times and so I’ve felt his spirit come through a lot during this time,” she says.
While Madiba’s was a fight in the main against racism and apartheid, it is a reality that continues to confront her generation, as evidenced in the Black Lives Matter Movement in the United States, around the world and in her personal experiences.
Tunzi says: “On the positive end just getting so many positive messages from young Black women, from young Black girls and their parents, sort of sending me DMs or texts or sending me videos on a daily to say thank you for saying what you said and thank you for being so authentic and being yourself. Because you were that person you gave me permission to be comfortable in my blackness and everything that I stand for and so I think that has been the most beautiful part of my journey and of course the ugly side of it as well, of people still not being accepting of my skin and the person that I am.”
With the United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres delivering this year’s annual Mandela Day Lecture under the theme ‘Tackling the Inequality Pandemic – A new Social contract for a new Era’ Miss Universe weighed in on the role of women’s leadership in building back better post COVID-19.
“Women have always been there and I feel like they will always be there and definitely see their role and hoping that they will be very much included after the pandemic. One thing this pandemic has shown us is such a huge gap in inequality so whether it be with gender or whether it be with race, I think it’s just one of the things it revealed to us the most. So stepping out of the pandemic, I’m hoping those are the things that are going to be tackled.”
On the question of the recent surge in gender-based violence which President Mandela as far back as 1997 warned would require hands on deck to eradicate, Tunzi says the scourge is infuriating.
“I’m mad, I’m extremely infuriated because not only do women have to deal with being scared of the pandemic, being scared for their health, now we also have to worry about our lives, it’s too much for women all over the world.”