By Megan Flemmit, photography supplied by Zinhle Masango
One in five South African women over the age of 18 report that they have been physically abused by their partner.
25-year-old Zinhle Masango is one of these women. The first time her then fiancé physically hurt her, Zinhle was scared and confused. They had broken up at the time, but she was waiting for the end of the month to move out. One evening he demanded to see her phone to see whom she was talking to, as he suspected that she was dating someone else. During the argument he punched her in the mouth and pulled on her braids. He also threatened to hit her with a chopping board. Eventually he locked her in a room and drove off with her son, who was seven-months-old at the time.
As the abuse continued, Zinhle lost confidence in herself. She became timid and reserved. “I found myself watching what I say or do. I also used to think to myself ‘Zee don’t say anything to anger this man’ or ‘Don’t engage or talk to other males’ because I knew that would bag me a beating,” she explains.
She started weight training after the first incidence of abuse, but she only started taking it seriously when she met her coach Given Mthimunye. “When I met my coach, I made a deal with myself that NO MAN will ever lay his hands on me,” she says. “I made sure that I trained so hard that I became intimidating to males and I succeeded in that!”
The more Zinhle trained, the stronger she became – both mentally and physically. “The abuse stopped for a bit I think because he saw me regaining my confidence and I had a strength within me that he didn’t know I possessed,” she says. The last time her partner tried to hurt her, Zinhle was able to stand up for herself. She eventually left the relationship. But the mental damage the abuse did to her stayed with her. “It took me time to overcome this. I prayed every day for God to give me strength,” she says. “The biggest pain doesn’t come from the bruises or scars. It is the heart that takes the most strain. Having to digest that betrayal from the person you love and who claims to love you.”
The moment Zinhle packed her bags and left, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “I felt a power that I had never felt. I felt that I could be me again. I felt like a victor.”
Last year Zinhle decided to turn her passion for fitness into a career. After people began enquiring about her fitness journey, she decided to do an online fitness course. She then began offering her services to her followers on social media. Currently she’s developing a website which will provide people with insight into getting fit and eating healthy. “It feels liberating to be living my passion and serving my purpose,” she adds.