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Step-Up winner decries unfulfilled promises by organisers


…says only car received

Chris Theko

Some two years since the inaugural edition of the country’s spectacular musical talent search show Step-Up Lesotho, grand prize winner Tamia Phooko said she is yet to receive all the items due unto her as the overall competition winner in October 2019. 

The songstress from Ha-Abia Maseru was crowned the winner on October 12, 2019 at the Manthabiseng Convention Center where she drove off with a brand-new Volkswagen Polo Vivo vehicle.

According to her, she was also guaranteed a recording deal in the United States of America, a three-year scholarship at the Integrated Business College (IBC) and a M10 000 cash prize.

However, the singer told Newsday Arts this week of all the prizes she was to receive, only the car had been duly delivered by the competition organisers Khaya Holdings. 

“Immediately on the final day of the competition I was awarded the car but until today I am yet to receive other prices I was guaranteed such as the M10 000 prize money, and I am not sure if I am still going to the United States as it was mentioned,” Tamia said.

The talent search competition was organized by Khaya Holdings and ran from early 2019 until October when the grand finale was held.   

Asked about whether there has been any communication by the organisers she said the only time they talk is when she reached out and they told her she is not serious.

“When I enquired what was happening regarding my recording deal and the trip to the United States, I was told that I am not serious which is where I got confused because if you win a music competition, you have to get everything you were promised.

“Again they started making excuses for me saying I should raise my baby and my prizes will be waiting for me when I am done, the truth is I did not need them to make that decision for me because I was sorted.

“I have been silent and waiting all this time because I am not a controversial person who always wants peace but I have now lost my patience,” Phooko said.

On the other hand, contacted for a comment on the behalf of Khaya Holdings, one of the directors Paul Banda disputed Tamia’s account of the incident, as he labeled it “…baseless allegations aimed at tarnishing the name of Step-Up”. 

“Firstly, these are all baseless accusation by someone we have been backing since the first day she was announced as winner of the competition, I am not sure what she wants to achieve but I can tell you now that what she said is not entirely factual,” Banda said. 

He stated that there was never a cash prize amongst the prices to be won but only the car, record deal in the USA and a scholarship at IBC. 

“We have never said anything about M10 000 but only the record deal which she had to first record something so that the producers in the USA could hear how she sounds and she has not made time for that hence we regard her as someone who has never been serious about her music career.

“Seven days leading to the grand finale, Tamia gave birth and we were considerate of that situation enough to say to her, have some time for you and your baby and once you are confortable prepare to get back in studio. 

“There was also a scholarship for her to study at IBC for her college qualification so that while in the process of doing music she can have something to maybe fall back on but she has not done anything there also,” Banda further explained. 

He added that all the prices except for the M10 000 are still there waiting for Tamia to start working because they (Khaya Holdings) want to see her succeed in her music career.

Banda said it was not a good thing that the winner of the competition is not on people’s lips and events line ups but the people who became second and third respectively are seen to be more active musically. 

Ntabiseng Khetsi who was the first runner-up, enrolled for a diploma in Hospitality Management at IBC and still gets events bookings while Morena Sway, the second runner-up has since seen his star rise after the competition releasing one of the most loved songs ‘Sematsatsa’ in 2020 and subsequently followed up with a classic EP titled ‘Love, Live Africa’ in 2021.        

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