HOW sad it was to hear President Jacob Zuma, in an interview with Radio 702 host Redi Thlabi, insist that the Limpopo textbook scandal is the fault of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd.

As if it were Verwoerd, not Zuma's educational trust, who took money from Edusolutions in return for contracts to distribute school textbooks. As if it were Verwoerd, not Zuma's administration, who dumped textbooks in a river, not once but at least twice, instead of delivering them to the African children waiting for them.

It was Verwoerd, not Zuma's lax controls, who caused municipalities to misspend R11bn last year and Verwoerd, not Zuma's allies in the Free State, who promised to cover exposed toilets in the province last year and still have not.

It is Verwoerd who drives a truckload of helpless passengers into the face of an oncoming train, killing all of them, and it is Verwoerd who dreams restlessly of the poor while he contemplates the purchase of a billion-rand personal jetliner.

Of course, we know what Mr Zuma means. Apartheid did great damage. But that does not mean we should be impressed with Mr Zuma now. The job, we thought, of a democratic government in South Africa was to improve on the ills of apartheid, not to embed them.

In the course of an hour-long interview with an excellent Ms Thlabi, the head of state did not once take responsibility for a single problem the country faces - not corruption, not crime, not the lack of education. In his own mind he is fixing all of these things, not making them worse.

Faced with myopia on this grand scale, ordinary South Africans have little choice but to put their heads down and do whatever job is at hand to the best of their ability, hoping our current political ordeal passes. It is probably too late, though, for this generation of schoolchildren in at least Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. They are largely lost.

The only people who could do more than the rest of us will be the delegates at the ANC's leadership contest in Mangaung in December. They will be asked directly whether they want Verwoerd to continue running the country or to relieve Mr Zuma of the burdens of high office. The choice, to us, is easy.

It is not difficult to deliver a schoolbook to a child who wants one. Mr Zuma's lame excuses are, sadly as we say, merely typical of an administration that has in all respects lost its way.