She has been a victim of many internet trolls. During her pregnancy, she was blatantly called ugly by cyberbullies and ridiculed for her changing body.
She is one of many celebrities who have called out cyberbullies for their lack of empathy and for victimising people while hiding behind their keyboards.
The Queen actress Zenande Mfenyana (35) is taking a stand against cyberbullying. She's addressing the dangers of cyberbullying on her social media pages, using her experience as a victim who is a public figure.
“During my pregnancy, I experienced a lot of cyberbullying,” Zenande says.
“Night after night during The Queen, people would make so many hurtful comments about my appearance on TV. They would take screenshots, circle my dark neck, big nose and even make fun of the way I was walking.”
This hurt her deeply as she felt she had no control over how pregnancy was changing her body.
“What is worse is that they would tag me in these nasty comments, which meant that they intended for me to see them."
She says what upset her was that people were quick to dish out negative comments but when she retaliated it became an issue.
Zenande says she suffered from low self-esteem because of the bullying.
“No one should feel the need to have a tough skin to adapt to bullying. It hurts,” she adds.
Being in the spotlight, Zenande feels constantly judged by strangers who only see her on TV, and social media when she stands up against bullies.
“I am constantly judged as a bad person. I feel like there is an expectation for those who are in the public eye to keep quiet when being bullied on the net for fear of tarnishing their brand. It’s such a difficult space to navigate because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t," Zenande adds.
With many people from the LGBTQIA+ being attacked in real life and on social media, Zenande, an avid supporter of the movement, feels a strong need to stand up against cyberbullies.
“It’s not fair that the LGBTQIA+ community need to constantly fight to be heard and seen and for them to not share the same equal rights and privileges that the heterosexual community experiences.”
Zenande feels the freedom of expression should be treated with the same fairness and that not enough is being done to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ people.
“Social media networks are not doing enough to address cyberbullying. It’s not enough that someone’s account gets suspended temporarily; we need more drastic measures put in place to address these social media ills that we face daily. People need to get fined, and even have their accounts permanently suspended,” Zenande says.
The new mom believes cyberbullying is a form of abuse that has massive implications on the mental health of victims.
From the constant negative comments she has received on social media Zenande believes that it is important for those who have experienced the same, to be supported through counselling.
“Counselling needs to be offered to those who have been directly affected by cyberbullying. Whether it be personal one on one sessions, or it is via zoom. But we need to get to address the way a lot of people are affected by cyberbullying so that we can prevent things like suicide,” she says.
“But most importantly, we need to call out bullies, so they can stop."