Cape Town-130219-Trevor Manuel speaks during the SONA debate in the National Assembly. Picture Jeffrey Abrahams

Johannesburg -

South African Communist Party deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin has defended Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel over his comments that the government could no longer blame apartheid for its failures, SABC radio reported on Thursday.

Cronin said Manuel's comments were taken out of context and that it had been a media ambush.

“Let's see what (the) comrade was actually saying, some more which weren't on the banner headlines - we need a strong and effective government, we will not be able to reverse the effects of apartheid on the opportunities available to all South Africans,” quoted Cronin, who was speaking in Cape Town on Wednesday evening.

Manuel's remarks were intended to encourage civil servants to be proactive in delivering services, said Cronin.

Last week Manuel reportedly said it was time for the government to take responsibility for its actions.

“We (government) should no longer say it's apartheid's fault. We should get up every morning and recognise we have responsibility. There is no longer the Botha regime looking over our shoulder, we are responsible ourselves.”

On Wednesday, President Jacob Zuma said it was impossible to see complete change in just 20 years. The damage done by apartheid would be with the country for some time, he said.

“To suggest we cannot blame apartheid for what is happening in our country now, I think is a mistake to say the least,” Zuma said at the 20th anniversary of SACP leader Chris Hani's assassination.

“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 Zuma. - Sapa