SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe lay a wreath to mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, at an East Rand cemetery on Wednesday. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe lay a wreath to mark the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, at an East Rand cemetery on Wednesday. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma on Wednesday slapped down Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, taking a thinly veiled swipe at him by insisting that the government would not stop blaming the legacy of apartheid for South Africa’s problems.

Mr Manuel caused a stir last week when he said the government should stop blaming apartheid for delivery failures nearly two decades into democracy.

He told the 2013 Government Leadership Summit in Pretoria: "We should no longer say it’s apartheid’s fault. We should get up every morning and recognise that we have responsibility. There’s no Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves."

Mr Manuel’s remarks caused a storm in alliance circles, with the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union launching an attack at the weekend, calling him a frustrated and disillusioned "maverick", who regarded himself as a "super minister".

Mr Manuel could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Mr Zuma’s pointed remarks, delivered on the 20th anniversary of the death of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, further underline Mr Manuel’s "outsider" status in the Cabinet.

Mr Zuma waded into what has become a ruling alliance-wide tussle, saying it was a "mistake, to say the least" to say that the government should stop using the apartheid card. While not mentioning Mr Manuel by name, he said the issue of "blaming apartheid" was "topical" last week.

"To suggest we cannot blame apartheid for what is happening in our country now, I think is a mistake, to say the least. We don’t need to indicate what it is apartheid did. The fact that the country is two in one — you go to any city, there is a beautiful part and squatters on the other side — this is not the making of democracy and we can’t stop blaming those who caused it," said Mr Zuma.

"While wanting to see change happening fast in every corner of the country, we are under no illusion that South Africa will automatically and comprehensively change in only 20 years. That is impossible. The legacy of apartheid runs too deep and too far back for the democratic administration to reverse it in so short a period."

Despite overseeing the National Development Plan last year, Mr Manuel has remained largely on the periphery and open to attacks from alliance leaders.

He declined nomination to the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) national executive committee in December, having been a leading member of the party’s most senior body for 21 years. That has fuelled speculation that he would not make himself available for another term as minister when his current term expires next year — or may even quit before that.

While responsible for an important portfolio, Mr Manuel is not as central to the Zuma cabinet as he was under former president Thabo Mbeki.

At a briefing on Wednesday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said "apartheid will not vanish into thin air".

He said power relations in South Africa had not changed much, and favoured those who had benefited under apartheid.

Mr Mantashe said the matter must not be dealt with through any emotion, including "anger". "But we must appreciate the impact of this evil system on the society."

With Setumo Stone