Spending time on social media can be derailing, but sometimes you learn valuable lessons. Scrolling through TikTok landed me on the account of Makgato Maite, a nutrition specialist and body-builder who is the epitome of strength and resilience.
In a 17-part video series on TikTok, the former Miss Limpopo (2015) spoke about surviving abuse, losing a child and finding herself all over again.
After finishing matric, Maite left home to live with her boyfriend at the time. She had no ambition and would follow the guy everywhere he went.
A few months into cohabiting, the guy started cheating. What made things worse was that he cheated on her with her best friend.
“He was not just cheating on me, he was cheating with people close to me. He went to the extent of cheating with my best friend, a woman that I trusted with all my heart and considered a sister.”
As a beauty queen titleholder, Maite decided to distract herself by coaching girls on how to model. All was well until her boyfriend started asking out the girls she was coaching. The boyfriend eventually dated one of the girls.
But that didn’t stop Maite from being in a relationship with him. Instead, she fell pregnant, hoping that he would change. And he did change but for the worst. He became physically abusive to Maite, more so after she caught him with his new girl at a restaurant and confronted them.
“When I entered the shop, I saw the girl sitting on his lap. I had a can of cold drink in my hand, and because I was angry and miserable, I hit the girl with the can on her head. I am not proud of that, but that’s what happened. There was a lot of commotion, and when one of the ladies working at the shop saw the fight, she chased us out.”
When they got home, the couple carried on fighting until Maite fell on her tummy, and that’s when she decided to stop. She was six months pregnant at the time and, a month later, she gave birth to a premature baby boy.
“My baby wasn’t fine, he couldn’t breathe on his own. They had to transfer us to Mankweng Hospital and we stayed there for two months. At the hospital, my boyfriend wasn’t showing up for me or the baby. He would make occasional visits once after two weeks or so.
“Luckily my family was there for me. My mom came to see me every day after work. My sister and my dad would come every weekend. They were there for me, and that’s what kept me strong.”
Depression hit her when she was in the hospital and her child’s health started deteriorating. The baby struggled with his breathing and was diagnosed with jaundice but prayer kept him alive.
Eventually, they were discharged from the hospital and Maite when back to her boyfriend while the baby remained home with her family.
“I allowed this boy back into my life. My family was surprised. My mom was shocked. She said, ‘Maite, after everything, are you really bringing this guy back into your life?’ I told her I wanted to give him another chance, maybe things will be different.”
Little did Maite know what was in store for her. His cheating was worse than before, and whenever Maite asked him questions, she would get a beating.
It got intense and one night he beat her, choked her and left her out in the cold. Fortunately, there was a woman renting a back room where they lived and she took her in for the night.
In the morning, Maite packed her bags and went back home. As usual, her family welcomed her with open arms. She stayed with them until the guy came to see the child and used that opportunity to win Maite back.
“I fell in love with him again. Please don’t judge me. He tried to convince me to live with him, but I refused. We then agreed to continue with the relationship from a distance.
“ All was well until one day when I went to visit him and the phone rang. He didn’t want to answer. I was wrong for trying to answer the phone, and when I took it, we started fighting over it.
“As we were fighting for the phone, he slapped me, and I told myself that I was going to defend myself. There was a knife on the counter, and when he slapped me for the second time, I quickly rushed to grab the knife. When he tried to slap me again, I blocked it with a knife, and he grabbed it. I then pulled the knife and it cut his thumb.”
What Maite learnt that day is that everyone is capable of murder, it just depends on the situation in front of you.
“I was so angry, and when I think of it now, I could’ve killed a person and would probably be in prison. Seeing his finger dangling loose got me scared and made him even angrier. He came for me and slapped me.
“For every slap, I would stab him in the hand. It was very dangerous game because had he got the knife, he was going to finish me. I then decided to scare him with a knife until I reached the door and ran for my life.”
When Maite escaped from her boyfriend’s place, she had no shoes, no cellphone and no money but only a knife full of blood.
As she was running, she came across a police van and they stopped her.
They told her to get into the van and when they got to the boyfriend’s place with the intention of arresting him, she told them that she loved him. When the police left, they kissed and made up.
It’s a story of many women in abusive relationships and it’s unfortunate that while some manage to escape, others only leave such relationships in a coffin.
Maite continued to stay in the relationship until one day when her son started getting sick. They first thought he was teething because he was vomiting, something which is common in babies.
Maite and her boyfriend went to town to get medication for her baby. While they were in town, her father called and told her to rush back home. When she got there, she was met with her worst nightmare: her son was no more.
After the funeral, when she went to town to sign for her son’s death certificate, she saw her boyfriend holding hands with another woman, and that’s when she decided to leave the guy for good this time.
“The baby died in October 2015. The first few months following his death were hard. I tried to be strong, but it was difficult. I was having nightmares, I was always quiet, I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to be around people, and seeing someone holding a baby would make me sad.”
Early in 2016, her older sister offered to stay with her in North West, and Maite couldn’t refuse. She needed a break after everything she had been through. To keep busy, she got a job as a debt collector and the following year (2017), she got promoted to the position of supervisor.
“While I was working there, I met a personal trainer at one of the gyms nearby where I was staying. He convinced me to join the gym, which actually played a big role in my healing process. I joined the gym and fell in love with it. It became a very important part of my life.
“At work, there was an opportunity for me to be a development manager and I had to move to Gauteng. I took the opportunity and moved.”
As a fitness bunny, Maite decided to study personal training, a nutrition diploma and sports psychology. However, there was still something missing. Even after three qualifications, Maite felt she needed to do more.
“Early this year, I got a promotion as a floor manager, which was a very great opportunity for me. When I got the opportunity, I had already decided which course I wanted to study. I decided that I wanted to study law.
“I registered with Unisa, and 10 years later, I am finally a first-year law student. I am 28 years old, and most of the people I went to school with are working, they graduated a long time ago, and they have their dream jobs, houses and cars, and I’m still here trying to find myself.
“I am still here, trying to find my way back. Delayed as I was, I am happy I was able to come out from whatever dark could I was in.”
Maite’s first semester went well. She passed all her nine modules with distinctions, and is looking forward to the second semester.
“In closing, I am very grateful for my family. They’ve been very supportive of everything. They had many reasons to give up on me. They’ve reprimanded me countless times to leave that guy, and I kept going back. Every time I came home, they welcomed me, accepted me and never judged me.
“They took care of me, supported me, and prayed for me. So many times, people would see me achieving things and think my life has been easy, but it wasn’t and is still not. I love my family so much, I don’t know where or what I would be if they gave up on me, and for that I am going to work really hard.
“I want to make them proud. I want to show them that I’m grateful. I want to give them a proper comeback,” said Maite as she occasionally wiped tears from her eyes.
To all the women out there, love is not supposed to be painful. It is not supposed to bring out the worst in you and definitely not supposed to break you. If you are in an abusive relationship, leave before it’s too late.
“Your life is worth it, and you shouldn’t waste it on meaningless relationships. If Maite can rise, so can you.