INTRIGUE, suspense, drama and above all pretence rocked the 16 week long reality television programme Ready for Marriage on Zambia's largest privately owned station Muvi TV and its sister channel Africa Unite.
But real character was seen on that night that left many disappointed including some contestants who were tipped to walk away with the K45 million cash money and another K45 million wedding sponsorship.
Jane Mutale, a favourite for many viewers particularly for her fine looks was highly tipped to win the mega prize with another crowd puller Precious Kawinga, could already visualise themselves dressed in the exquisite wedding attires, as the overall winners.
But much to the amazement of most viewers, that was not to be, according to the voters and the judges who both shared a fifty per cent say, on the winners.
In an interview with the Times, one of the judges, who is a traditional marriage counselor (Alangizi) Ailesi Phiri said the contestants were without their knowledge under 24 hour surveillance cameras, which were pitched at the hotel where they were accommodated.
"We saw a lot of pretence from the contestants and we pray that it doesn't go beyond this, because a lot of people will be disappointed with them," she said.
One would have wondered why the favourites who were so sure of winning tumbled in the last minute. Let's face reality.
Jane Mutale a runaway wife is alleged to have only practiced prostitution for less than two months, after she accused the husband of mistreating her.
Her excuse to get into prostitution was simple-she needed to provide for her baby.
But should this reason, which others may view as valid, guarantee her the final prize?
The beauty about reality TV shows is that the viewers have a stake-and they spoke loud, with one voice-the prize was not Janes'.
Precious Kawinga said she was in a relationship with a clergyman for four months and according to Times Entertainment calculations, that was the same time she had been in the house and on the programme; more is yet to be unveiled on her 'recently found love.' She too, never made it to the top three!
But Precious Amukusana- winner of the grand prize, her story makes sad reading, and was convincingly the most genuine.
The 25- year-old former sex worker grew up with her single mother and had never known her father a Mr Amukusana Mubiana until the year 2000 in which he also died.
The man had married another woman and after he died, that woman later re-married and relocated to Mwembeshi area west of Lusaka.
In 2004, her mother died and she was left with the onus of looking after her three younger siblings.
That burden was not to be met by her alone as she and the siblings were given hope by an auntie who decided to start staying with them.
While her auntie could provide food for her and the rest of the family, she could not manage to take Amukusana who had just passed to go to great 10 at a boarding school in Western Province.
Some friends who knew Amukusana's predicament enticed her to join them as they were going to patronise bars in Mongu town so that she can raise funds for her education much to the annoyance of her auntie who later chased her from home because of the vice.
In 2005, she remembers starting the prostitution business with the 'bad friends' she met.
"They (friends) told me I could find money to help my siblings and make ends meet by sleeping with men," narrates the seemingly cool, calm and collected Precious Amukusana.
She said after six months in the business in 2005, her stepmother, the widow to her biological father, invited Precious to join her in Mwembeshi.
The invitation was to help her complete education which she unfortunately could not start in grade 10 but opted to sit for English only at grade 12.
When it had looked like everything was going well for her, the husband to her step mother was not comfortable with her staying with the family and asked her to leave.
After returning to Mongu in 2008, she got a job working in a bar where she was being paid K150, 000 per month.
With that little she was earning, meeting the needs for her family proved futile and she eventually started prostituting with some of the clients who showed interest in her-and that was the beginning of the four year journey into sex work.
"I didn't like what I was doing and I still don't like the prostitution business because of the way ladies are treated by men. I am still being haunted by that foreign Angolan national who used to force me for anal sex," she solemnly narrates her worst moment in prostitution.
The money that Precious was realising from the illicit sex trade was supplementing the young sisters' efforts.
The sister (Victoria Mubiana 20) was working in a hardware shop and the K100, 000, she was getting was equivalent to the rent they were paying.
The other two siblings (Saviour and Sandra) were relying on alms from well- wishers earning themselves titles of beggars and street kids.
In July this year, she heard an advertisement on Ready for Marriage Extraordinary where Muvi TV was looking for sex workers who wanted to transform their lives.
Eager to lead a normal and better life she applied and was picked to represent Mongu on the programme.
Though she joined late, Precious said she was happy that the producers of the programme assured the ladies of a job once the reality show was over.
"I was never bothered with winning the prize because I knew I was going to get a job after the end of the show and that itself was a big prize for me," explains Precious.
But 16 weeks down the line that was not going to be the case. The judges judged, the voters voted and the person who provided consistency in her stories was awarded the grand prize.
From the time Precious entered the show her story never changed and that changed her ambition too. Apart from being in line for a job, she was crowned overall winner of that exquisite dress.
Shocked with the outcome, Precious collapsed in disbelief and it took over 10 minutes to resuscitate her for the crowning ceremony.
"I thank God for the transformation and I also thank him for allowing me to come out HIV negative despite all the risks involved in the prostitution business.
"I will make sure I don't associate with my old friends and ensure that I use the entrepreneurship skills I learned in the house for my survival," she says.
Asked on what she will do with the K45 million cash, Amukusana said she would buy a house in Lusaka and bring along with her from Mongu the three siblings and her beloved stepmother who has since divorced with her husband.
Apart from the K45 million cash prize, she is also to receive K45million wedding sponsorship as soon as she finds a partner. There were 18 contestants in the Ready for Marriage show and six made the finalist cut of which three were the winners.
Muleya Munkombwe and Mwamba Hangolo were runners-up while the controversial Jane Mutale , Sandra and Precious Kawinga never made in the top three.
Muvi TV will provide education and jobs in different areas for all the 18 finalists according to the mastermind of the show Master Chimbala.