Eastern Cape beauty, Ashanti Mbanga (24), was crowned the Miss Earth South Africa 2013 at a star-studded Gala Dinner, which took place at Tsogo Sun’s beautiful Montecasino Ballroom last night. Mbanga, who was dressed by Rubicon Clothing, is completing her Degree in Transport Economics, which she hopes to use as she pursues a political career in the transport sector. Although born in the Eastern Cape, Mbanga has shared her time in Gauteng between Pretoria, Sunnyside where her family is and Johannesburg, where she is enrolled at the University of Johannesburg. Mbanga has big dreams for herself and aspires hopes one day to affect real change in the sustainable transport sector from the position of South African Transport Minister.

The runners up hail from equally diverse backgrounds, Erin Roche (21), first runner up, Miss Air, currently living in Centurion, was born and raised in Nelspruit, a town where she says, “A kind heart goes a long way.”Thobile Mchunu (24), second runner up, Miss Water, who was born in Umlazi, KwaZulu Natal, now considers herself a “Joburger” through and through having lived in the Nation’s economic capital since her family moved inland when she was in grade 3, is currently working at a youth marketing agency and fondly remembers a childhood spent playing barefoot in the garden with her younger sister. Limpopo-based model and businesswoman, Katryn Barwise (22), took the third runner up, Miss Fire, title. Barwise is the proud owner of a Limpopo-based youth development organisation and as a Finalist she worked extensively with school learners of all ages on numerous environmental education programmes.

Other highlights of the evening included the announcement of the three Miss Earth South Africa Ambassadors for 2013, Carmen Loureiro (23) from the beautiful Ekurhuleni suburb of Bedfordview, Makgomo Sebesho (25), originally from Limpopo who now hails from Gauteng’s West Rand, and Nicole Laxton (19), a photographer and budding artist, also from Bedfordview. The announcement of the Ambassadors came shortly after the announcement of Laxton as the recipient of the Best in Evening Wear, title, and Barwise as the Public Choice recipient, having received in excess of 1,200 votes. Barwise was also awarded the Green Project award, having worked with 1,966 learners in the course of her educational work as part of the programme and having planted 120 trees across the Limpopo Province.

Tsogo Sun, which was announced as the official home of the Miss Earth South Africa in 2012, played host to the National Finalists at the Montecasino Southern Sun Hotel in the week leading up to the Gala event, which was attended by some of SA’s most glamorous and green people. The event was emceed by Jersey Boys heart throb and well-known South African actor, Emmanuel Castis, a long-time friend of the organisation who has helped with many projects and campaigns. Guests were blown away by phenomenal SA entertainment such as the power house that is Lonehill Estate; They describe their music as neon rock and have enjoyed much success with songs like Techno Band, The Green Pocket, Daans, Gangstar and Look Good. Shaun Jacobs made huge waves when he released his single LOVE CAN earlier this year. He was the highest charting SA artist on the local iTunes chart for 12 weeks and was part of the line up alongside operatic song bird Nombuso Ndlandla. Celebrities in attendance included Garnier Ambassador TV personality Connie Ferguson, former Miss Earth South Africa winners Kayan Leung, Nondyebo Dwingwa, Matapa Maila, Nancy Rebelo and celebrity faces such as Edith Venter and Shona Ferguson.

This year’s programme was hotly contested, with hundreds of entries received earlier in the year; the organisation took 80 young ladies through to the Regional Finalist round, which was announced in May. After two months of educational and greening projects that number was cut to 25 National Semi-Finalists, who spent a week greening Cape Town and Johannesburg with Reliance Compost and Tsogo Sun in early July. The announcement of the 16 National Finalists on the 15 July marked just over a month to the announcement of a young lady who will go on to represent South Africa at the international Miss Earth in South East Asia later this year. The organisation holds hands with its principal partners, Consol, Tsogo Sun, Imperial Toyota, SAPPI, and Reliance Compost, who keep the team 100% Carbon Neutral.

More about the Miss Earth South Africa:

Since planting their 20,000th tree in 2012, the Miss Earth South Africa organisation has come a long way, having recently returned from a landmark trip to the West African state of Côte d’Ivoire where they joined the 2012 International Miss Earth winner, TerezaFajksova and to launch the Miss Earth Côte d’Ivoire franchise. The Miss Earth SA team also attended the official United Nations Environmental Programme World Environment Day celebrations in that country, where they planted 20 trees at the University of Cocody in Abidjan. On 8 June the team joined forces with local NGOs, UNEP, UNESCO, the UNDP and the Ivorian Minister of Environment in cleaning the beaches of Grand Bassam, just outside Abidjan.

The Miss Earth South Africa’s leadership was recently in Istanbul, Turkey where they chosen to attended the Al Gore Climate Reality Leadership Corps. The Leadership Corps event was led by former US Vice President Al Gore, founder ofthe Climate Reality Project, who trained participants to deliver the climate change presentationmade famous in his globally acclaimed documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. As members of the Leadership Corps global network, Catherine and Ella Bella joined a select group of diverse, passionate, and talented activists from around the world.

The organisation was also honoured earlier this year by the Department of Trade and Industry, Proudly South African and Brand SA when they received the inaugural South African Premier Business Award in the Young Entrepreneur Category. On receiving the award, Eco-preneur, Constantinides, was humbled and honoured and said, “It’s a collaborative effort. We have been able to achieve our objectives because of an amazing team and incredible partners. This award is dedicated to all who have believed in my dreams and the green future I believe we can all share in.”

Over the years the Programme has secured endorsements from a range environmental bodies including the Minister of Environmental Affairs, several green agencies such as SANParks, SANEDI, WWF, SANCCOB, and Cape Nature and is supported by the Department of Basic Education, as well as City of Cape Town, and the eThekwini Municipality to name a few.

Why beautiful women you may ask?

This platform creates ambassadors and spokeswomen that people aspire to be like, people admire and children look up to. The programme has grown over the years from one success to the next, making a huge difference to people, communities with which it works and the environment. What better role model than a beautiful and intelligent, young South African woman, someone who has a green message that you want to take up and make your own. Children are in awe of these young ladies, and are like sponges in their presence, absorbing every word they say.

The dynamic young woman who is named the 2013 Miss Earth South Africa will receive the use of a Prius Hybrid from IMPERIAL Toyota for the year of her reign. She will receive prizes from David Green Eyewear, leading South African designers Werner Dey, Craig Jacobs, JJ Schoeman and GerritPienaar, gifts from Garnier, Cadbury, Reel Gardening, ESSE, ZANDO, Lorna Jane active wear designed by women for women, Healing Earth, Hemporium and Crystal Forum as well as hair treatments and styling by leading Sandton-based salon, Bijan Boutique Hair and Elchim.This coupled with dental care from Sandton Dental Studio, will ensure that the Miss Earth SA will look and feel good wherever she goes. Earth Pro-Biotics, Carbon Track and Fourways Air-conditioning, will equip the winner’s home so that she can instantly adopt a greener lifestyle in her day-to-day living, other green gadgets including the latest technology from SAMSUNG, African Organics, LED gadgets from Eurolux. She will also receiveGepardissimadesignerjewellery to ensure that she departs for the International Miss Earth feeling glamorous and green. This year sees the exciting new partnership with SWEAT1000 the new exercise experience that has taken the country by storm. SWEAT1000 will keep the ambassadors fit and strong to tackle their exciting journey ahead.

For more on this exciting story visit their website, www.missearthsa.co.za, follow Miss Earth South Africa on Twitter (@missearth_sa) or Like them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/missearthsa).