Violence, and the ways it is gendered, have long constituted a serious problem in South Africa. In 2000, Cabinet set up the first coordinating structure tasked with developing a plan to combat this violence, and, since 2011, there has been an expanding apparatus of structures, institutions and processes around GBV. They have, however, been founded in a set of generic – even formulaic – prescriptions that ignore the current state of the South African state. As such, the many plans and structures that constitute the machinery to address GBV are characterised by hasty, ad hoc institutional design, unaccountability and wasted endeavour.

Contrasting with these managerial processes, are the anger and grief experienced by the many individuals whose lives are affected by GBV. While this has manifested in the proliferation of popular protest by women’s organisations and other formations demanding action from the state, it has not resulted in a disruption to the myriad processes and institutions that constitute the governance machinery surrounding GBV. Struggles between women within the sector have instead resulted in a politics of bad blood which, while not the sum total of the sector’s politics, works in ways that are powerfully divisive. When coupled with the dysfunction of the GBV segments of the state, it has provided some of the conditions which lead to the failure of the plans and structures intended to address GBV. The result is a perpetual motion machine, caught in the all-absorbing messiness of its repeated and multiple power struggles.