A 25-year-old Pietermaritzburg is making waves locally and abroad, after pictures of her fearlessly standing on trusses while building a house surfaced on social media. Publications from as far as Argentina have written her story, and her social media following is ballooning. In a society where construction is considered to be a job for men, while women are confined to the kitchen or other lighter work, Zamanzini Zungu is defying the odds.
Almost every girl aspires to one day wake up to wear bright lipstick, high heels and a fancy hairstyle and head to an airy office. Zamanzini is not just any other girl. She says she initially wanted to be a lawyer, but when she didn’t qualify for the profession, she went for the next big thing. She enrolled at Umgungundlovu TVET College for a course in construction, under the civil engineering department. Sadly, she had to drop out due to financial reasons. Following her pictures going viral, a building company has stepped in and offered to pay for her tuition.
Zamanzini believes financial independence cushions women from the scourge of gender-based violence plaguing South Africa, to a point where it has been described as the second pandemic, after COVID-19. “Women are getting killed left, right and centre mostly because they depend on men,” she says.
She explains that she is extending her pensioner parents’ house as a way of thanking them for using their meagre earnings to send her to school. In most African cultures, the boy child is treated as superior to the girl child, and sometimes this informs the distribution of resources, such as school fees and inheritance, among others. One of the arguments for this bias is that the boy child will carry the family name forward, while the girl will eventually leave the family to benefit her husband’s. Against this background, the girl child is not seen as adding much value to her biological family. Although such views are slowly dissipating, it is not uncommon for some men to abandon wives who do not bear sons and marry another woman or more, all in a quest to have a boy child. However, Zamanzini’s father stands tall among other men because of the improvements she’s making on her family home. She says neighbours constantly tell him how lucky he is to have such an inspirational daughter, and is bubbling with pride from the love she’s getting on social media.
The mother of two hopes to one day own a construction company and create jobs specifically for women. She believes this will help break the cycle of abuse. Interestingly, Zamanzini’s boyfriend, Mfanafuthi Siphiwe Dlamini, is a qualified chef. While he dons his apron as he works his magic in the kitchen while she wears her overalls and hard hat while carrying bricks and mixing mortar, signs that the wheels of change are surely in motion.