She made him the happiest man alive when she agreed to go out with him while they were having lunch at a fast food restaurant in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. So when he was thinking of the perfect place to pop the question six years later, it seemed like a great idea to stick to the eatery chain he’d had luck in before.

And so it was at a Chicken Inn in downtown Bulawayo that Makhosana Mguni (28) took things to the next level: he went down on one knee and asked the love of his life, Belinda Nyoni (24), to be his wife. And when she said yes, he felt overjoyed – and it didn’t take long for a photo of his loved-up gesture to go viral.

But when Makhosana woke up the next morning his euphoria turned to horror when he discovered hundreds of posts online ridiculing his “budget” proposal. He was mocked mercilessly for being “cheap” by proposing in a fast-food outlet and social media quickly erupted in the #TheChickenInn challenge.

Soon the proposal Makhosana was so proud of was a viral joke, with images of fake proposals being taken at places such as long fuel queues which have become commonplace in Zimbabwe. The “Power Couple”, as they’re now referred to, still have no idea who posted the pic of Makhosana on bended knee while Belinda, overwhelmed with emotion, hid her hands in her face.

Belinda’s sisters had made the image their WhatsApp statuses which might have been the source of the spread, Belinda says. “But there were many people taking pictures at Chicken Inn,” adds Ntokozo Dube (31), Belinda’s older sister who helped Makhosana organise the surprise proposal.

After his initial shock Makhosana wasn’t particularly fazed by the negativity. All that matters is the woman he loves is wearing his ring. To him it was a magical moment “that can’t compare to my birthdays”. “When she said ‘yes’, ooh God! I felt like I could conquer the world.

The stuff that happened afterwards didn’t matter that much. I had gotten the ‘yes’ from the woman I love.” The bad publicity turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the couple. They have since become celebrities in Zimbabwe and companies have pledged thousands of rands to make the road to their wedding day a memorable one.

 (PHOTO: Supplied to Drum)

First Ster-Kinekor offered them 46 tickets to movies of their choice in celebration of their love. At least 20 companies and individual businesspeople have offered to take care of the food at the lobola ceremony and provide everything necessary to pull off a luxurious wedding.

Zimbabwe musician Sanii Makhalima has jumped on board too, offering to perform for free at the wedding. “Honestly all I can say is, this is God. No one will just say, ‘I will do the catering’ for a person they don’t know. It’s something new to me and God chose Makhosana and me for it,” Belinda says with tears in her eyes.

The couple have the option of jetting off to Dubai for their honeymoon, free of charge, or choosing a fully-paid luxurious honeymoon at a destination of their choice in Zimbabwe, complete with spending money.

Three wedding gowns have also been offered to Belinda, along with three cakes (two for the wedding and one for the lobola ceremony), wedding venues, posh cars and live coverage of their wedding on radio.

 Chicken Inn have got in on the act too: Makhosana and Belinda are now the fast-food brand’s campaign ambassadors – complete with salaries. But they are determined not to get carried away by fame. Ntokozo says they’re still amazed by the response.

“We never expected such a thing to happen,” she says. “If people are really in love, a lot of good things happen.” Makhosana and Belinda met and fell in love in Nketa, Bulawayo, where they live. They were friends for a while before romance blossomed. It took “a lot of patience” to convince Belinda to go out with him, Makhosana admits.

Although he’s a member of the Assemblies of God church, he had to occasionally attend church with Belinda, a Seventh Day Adventist, to win her over. “We just swopped numbers at first but I wasn’t really interested. But he was patient and serious and we became friends, which gave me time to get to know him better,” Belinda says.

Eventually he won her heart but their relationship has had its challenges. Makhosana moved to Joburg two years into their relationship to work as a laser specialist while Belinda pursued her studies at the School of Hospitality and