Ludicrous and irrational to accuse Norma Gigaba of GBV

Norma Gibaba leaves the Brooklyn police station on August 4 2020. Gibaba was there to collect her devices that were seized during her arrest at the weekend.
Norma Gibaba leaves the Brooklyn police station on August 4 2020. Gibaba was there to collect her devices that were seized during her arrest at the weekend.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Former finance minister Malusi Gigaba and his wife Norma have been in the limelight following her arrest for malicious damage to property and crimen injuria.

This was after a video of Malusi inspecting his badly damaged Mercedes Benz G-wagon went viral. Norma is allegedly behind the damage. It later came out that domestic violence was also included in her charge sheet.

This sent social media into a frenzy, with many arguing that Norma's actions constitute gender-based violence. But do they really?

The term "gender-based violence" is being thrown around carelessly, and I think we need to have a conversation about it before we descend into the irrationality that has seen us normalise the nonsensical idea that black people can be racist. I must touch on this idea of black people being racist to demonstrate the possible illogic of deeming women as perpetrators of gender-based violence.

Black people cannot be racist. Racism is a structure built to oppress disenfranchised and marginalised groups. This means that in a society where means of production are owned and controlled by white people (and I use white people because evidence demonstrates that this is true whether they are a demographic minority as is the case in SA, or a demographic majority as in the US), they exert dominance and therefore, power. Merely hating white people, which many black people do, is not racism. Racism is not about feelings, it about power relations. It is a systematic construct.

Let's move to this issue of gender-based violence (GBV) and its conceptualisation. We deem women as victims of GBV, not because women themselves are incapable of meting out violence, but because we understand it to also be a systematic and structural construct.

Patriarchy is structural. It expresses itself and functions structurally. The institutional power that men wield in a hetero-normative patriarchal society facilitates the unequal power dynamics that inform the different forms of violence that women experience.

In this systematic set-up, women are not a dominant power. We do not benefit from patriarchy in any way, even as we are often its conveyor belts, in the same way as black people do not benefit from racism even when they may perpetuate views and ideas embedded in racism.

Norma's actions are best defined as intimate partner violence. The confusion of this with GBV is devoid of appreciation for the systematic and structural nature of the problem of GBV. The problem is that a patriarchal society subjugates women and in so doing, sets parameters for the normalisation of the various forms of violence that they endure.

That the Hawks can be set on a woman over a domestic dispute (which men in power often do, as evidenced even in the case of deputy minister David Masondo), is itself a demonstration of the institutional power that men wield in a patriarchal society. Malusi Gigaba has access to this kind of power because he is a man whose position privileges him and enables him to exercise it. To use the "if it was Gigaba who had done what Norma did you would say it is GBV" is simplistic. Were Norma's alleged actions criminal? Absolutely. But to elevate that to GBV is, as far as I'm concerned, ludicrous.

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