President Jacob Zuma is a misunderstood president, his spokesperson Mac Maharaj told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Monday.
"He hasn't been through a formal education so his power is as a self-educated man. His cultural roots are different. And to understand him in the context of SA is a bit of a problem, Maharaj added.
He went on to say that there was "an issue in SA" around understanding the president.
"He doesn't fit the normal mould of a president of a country... It's very important for the public to understand how he thinks, where he comes from, to understand the positions he takes and the way he manages issues."
Maharaj added that Zuma was "a tremendous communicator at grass-root levels and informally, but he's not that powerful at formal occasions".
It was a "challenge" that Zuma had taken over at a time when SA's transition to the building of democracy was at its most complex stage.
Asked why the president appeared to be silent on corruption, Maharaj said: "Corruption in SA is a major problem and it has to be tackled, not just issue by issue but systemically."
He added that there was a danger if corruption became embedded in a state.
"There's corruption all over, in Britain, in the US, but when it becomes systemic then that is a problem.
Asked what Zuma planned to do about the ANCYL's treatment of Botswana, Maharaj denied that the president was procrastinating.
"You'll be surprised how it [the ANCYL] needs to be attended to - it doesn't just require a rap on the knuckles."
Maharaj said the treatment of the ANCYL required that the ANC discipline the league and "educate" its members.
He added that financial probity was necessary for anyone wanting to be a leader as that person would be "a servant of the people".
On the weekend, Zuma - in an interview with City Press - criticised ANCYL president Julius Malema for making statements calling for a change of government in neighbouring Botswana.
At almost the same time, the ANCYL issued an apology and withdrew the statement of its national executive committee, which committed to the establishment of a Botswana Command Team to bring about regime change.
"We withdraw the statement and apologise because we note that the leadership of the ANC took serious exception on the statement and classified that statement as transgression of ANC constitution and policies."