JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday rejected a cabinet minister’s suggestion that government could no longer use apartheid as an excuse for poor public service.
“To suggest that we can’t blame apartheid for what we are doing now or for what is happening in our country, I think is a mistake, to say the least,” Zuma said.
His comment was a reference to a recent statement by Trevor Manuel, one of South Africa’s top-ranking cabinet ministers.
Last week Manuel chided the government for using apartheid — which ended 19 years ago — as an excuse for shoddy service delivery.
Zuma was speaking at a memorial service for slain anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani, whose death at the hands of a right-wing gunman 20 years ago today plunged the country into crisis.
Zuma insisted it had proven impossible to correct the damage caused by apartheid in just two decades of democracy.
“The legacy of apartheid runs too deep and too far back for the democratic administration to reverse it in so short a period unless you were a magician.”
It is “impossible that within 20 years you could change the damage of centuries.”
In an unusual chastisement from within the ANC, Manuel, who is a minister in the presidency had said it was time for government to take responsibility for its actions.
“There is no longer the (apartheid PW) Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves,” Manuel had said.
Zuma fired back saying “I think it’s a mistake to make such a statement.”
“You can’t be careless in behaviour and utterances” said Zuma in a warning directed at ANC officials in general.