PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma set out his case for the African National Congress's (ANC's) "second transition" yesterday, telling the party's policy meeting it was time for a "radical" shift in approach to transform the economy.
The draft policy document on the so-called second transition has become a rallying call in the ANC's succession battles, with those opposed to Mr Zuma's re-election as president of the party criticising its Marxist language and lack of content. If it is rejected by the conference, Mr Zuma could have a tough campaigning period ahead of the party's elective conference in Mangaung in December.
Parts of the ANC's structures are seeking drastic changes to the social and economic landscape - through moves such as the seizure of mines and land.
There were indications last night that Mr Zuma's plan would face opposition. It was rejected outright by a "commission" chaired by Fikile Mbalula, whose backers see him as a future ANC secretary-general. A source said the commission had found it "theoretically unsound", while other commissions suggested the name of the document be changed, to remove the problematic "second transition" from the title.
Mr Zuma opened the door for delegates pushing for drastic macroeconomic changes, calling for policy tools that would speed up transformation.
Blaming the compromises made during the negotiations for democracy in the 1990s, Mr Zuma admitted the ANC had failed to meet the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
"On the economy, we need to go back to the basics and take the difficult decisions that we could not take in 1994, " he said.
"We had to be cautious about restructuring the economy, in order to maintain economic stability and confidence .. We are therefore calling for a dramatic shift or giant leap to economic and social transformation, so that we can be able to deal decisively with the triple challenge."
Mr Zuma said to achieve inclusive and labour-absorbing growth, the state had to play an active role in the economy. "In proposing a radical shift towards economic and social transformation, Strategy and Tactics 2012 implores us to approach the Mangaung Conference, in a similar fashion as other landmark conferences."
Mr Zuma conceded that the ANC was under pressure to deliver services and that its supporters were frustrated.
"The level of frustration in some communities is high and understandably so. While many have received basic services, many more are still waiting for electricity, water, sanitation, proper roads, trains that run on time all the time, decent housing as well as clinics that have medical staff and medicines in certain areas ."
The people who felt the heavy burden of poverty needed a responsive ANC. "We can't sit here and say one day, when God loves it, things will come right."
Mr Zuma said the second transition would bring about an improvement in governance, ensuring an effective, democratic developmental state arose.
"The ANC must also pay attention to improving the capacity of the public service, at professional, technical, and numerical levels," he said.
"Our economic transformation efforts should focus on achieving a rising per-capita income, full employment, and our targets must demonstrate real and visible progress in reducing wealth and income inequalities."
At a press conference afterwards, Mr Zuma defended the ANC's record in government, saying the party could not be blamed for the slow pace of delivery.
The government was being held back by "apartheid backlogs", he said.