PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma was a special "guest" in Julius Malema's living room on Tuesday when he delivered the opening address at the African National Congress (ANC) policy conference, broadcast live on television.

Mr Malema, who watched Mr Zuma's performance from a guesthouse in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, would have been present in the conference hall - and most likely sought to influence proceedings - had it not been for his expulsion from the ANC in April.

However, the momentum built by the ANC Youth League under Mr Malema's leadership has popularised ideas that are likely to prove contentious during this week's conference, including the nationalisation of mines.

The league's call for economic freedom to address the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment resonates with some of the discussion documents being thrashed out by the policy conference this week, notably the proposals on state involvement in mining, land and the hotly debated strategy and tactics document, the "second transition".

Since his expulsion, Mr Malema says close friends have not abandoned him, but some acquaintances are more hesitant and careful.

On Tuesday, Mr Malema watched his political rival delivering the opening address at the four-day policy indaba, which sets the tone for the discussions ahead.

Mr Zuma's speech, predictably, did not hit the right notes with his would-be nemesis.

"I listened attentively yesterday when President Zuma was speaking and at least I was not among the delegates, I was not agitated, I was sitting here watching TV alone.

"I thought he was going to shine and take us through what he calls the second transition but his input was as usual very weak, lacked politics and no clarity of what he wants to achieve," said Mr Malema.

Launching a scathing attack on Mr Zuma's address, he asked: "Where are the original ideas of President Zuma in this speech? None. His original idea I can tell you is discipline . it's what he knows better, he can articulate that.

"He then became himself again when he was reprimanding veterans of the ANC. You don't do that with veterans no matter how angry you can be, you don't do that in public, those people are veterans for God's sake."

Mr Malema - once tipped by Mr Zuma to be a future president of the ANC - is no stranger to the party's wrath on issues of discipline after pulling out all the stops to block his removal through the ANC's stringent disciplinary process.

Mr Malema echoed criticism of the second transition by Mr Zuma's possible challenger and deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, whom the former youth leader speaks highly and respectfully of.

"Second transition for what, what was the first transition, what is the second transition?"

He described Mr Zuma's input as giving "little clarity" on what he wanted to achieve. Mr Malema was adamant that Mr Zuma should have acknowledged that many of the pertinent issues up for discussion were championed by the youth league.

"He must first acknowledge but he can't because he's petty, he lacks the courage. He can't acknowledge that what the youth league is raising is correct."

Citing the proposed review of the sunset clauses, in particular the property clause of the constitution as an example, Mr Malema said taking a firm stance on contentious issues required strong leadership and courage.

However, Mr Malema said it was encouraging that the ANC was prepared to take a firmer stand on key economic issues to tackle poverty, inequality and unemployment.

While those in the ANC often use the adage "it's cold out there" to describe life outside the party, Mr Malema seems to be braving the elements. He is keeping busy studying, farming his herd of 25 cattle and watching closely as the party marches towards its electoral conference in December.