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Is the ANC ruling or governing?



Is the ANC ruling or governing?

Douglas Gibson says the distinction helps explain govt’s response to Covid-19

Is the ANC ruling or governing?

20 January 2021

When I was elected to the Transvaal Provincial Council in 1970, the National Party had been in power since 1948. 22 years. The ANC has been in power since 1994. 27 years. This is too long in any democracy. The party in power, Nat or ANC, or any other party, starts getting ideas above itself, thinking they have a divine right to rule. Worse still, they begin to rule instead of governing.

There is a difference between the two. One interesting definition, by Mark Barton, is that “governing” …(means) “to conduct the policy, actions, and affairs of”, while “ruling” is “what a ruler does, as in a king or dictator…”

A party, seemingly in power forever, or to use Jacob Zuma’s words, “until the Second Coming,” cannot easily recognise itself as made up of mere mortals, collecting baggage and inclined to make more and more mistakes as the years pass.

Parties that “rule” create committees and give them pretentious names like the National Covid Command Council. Why “command”? We are told that it is merely a committee of ministers that makes recommendations to the cabinet, with the cabinet taking the decisions, and a minister on cabinet’s behalf issuing the instructions and promulgating directives with the force of law (without the representatives of the people parliament – being involved).

Ministers taking decisions and issuing legally binding regulations, the contravention of which is a crime, should, one would think, consult those most heavily affected. Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma determined that every ATM machine in South Africa has to be sanitised in terms of the requirements, deliberately ignoring the big 5 banks and making criminals of them because there are tens of thousands of ATM throughout our country and it is simply not possible, without notice, to sanitise all of them, even those in remote areas where there are often no other banking facilities. Ruling, not governing.

This is also the mindset of many officials who certainly would not describe themselves as public servants. They do not regard themselves as accountable to the people.

Louis XIV is remembered for his famous statement, “L’Etat c’est moi.” “I am the state.” That 17th century state of mind is often seen today. An example is the department of Small Business Development under Minister Khumbudzo Ntshaveni.

The Star reported recently that the auditor-general disclosed in his second special report on the financial management of the government’s Covid-19 initiatives that this department had failed abysmally in its task of supporting small business by disbursing R1.4bn to help people and companies to deal with the rampant effects of the pandemic.

The first report had highlighted serious weaknesses in the department; the second showed that nothing much had changed and the undertaking of the director-general to revise the operating procedures has still not been finalised. The result of this dereliction of duty is that R1.3 bn still remains. Jan de Villiers, DA spokesperson on small business, pointed out that only 8% of the funds had been paid out.

These shocking facts should result in the firing of the minister and the director-general. More so, when the spokesperson for the department said they were not commenting and would be issuing their report in due course. The arrogance of this attitude and the cheek of it when the department had sight of the auditor-general’s report weeks, if not months ago, illustrates the point about people who believe they have a divine right to rule and need not govern in the interests of the people they swore to serve. They have no shame.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand. His website is

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper. 

Douglas Gibson
Douglas Gibson
A former opposition chief whip and former ambassador to Thailand, Douglas Gibson is a keynote speaker and writer.

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