THE BIG READ: ANC's moment of truth
While the ruling party squabbles over terminology, the country's poor are beginning to lose patience, writes Domnic Mahlangu
Back in 2007, when former president Thabo Mbeki opened the ANC policy conference, Gauteng residents were battling to keep warm following a night of heavy snowfall.
Inside the hall at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, ANC members listened to him attentively, feeling warm - not from the heat generated by their numbers, but from the sharp words Mbeki used to describe their space and their contribution to the ANC-led alliance.
Drawing comparisons between the events of June 27 2007 with what has been happening at this week's ANC policy conference at Gallagher Estate, one cannot help but take note ofhow things have remained the same despite the marginally warmer temperatures this time around.
President Jacob Zuma, who deposed Mbeki so he could take the ANC on a new road, took to the podium on Tuesday determined to show he was in charge and that he was redirecting the party to tackle "new challenges" impeding his government from building a better life for all South Africans.
He told delegates that the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment facing millions of South Africans required a "dramatic shift or giant leap to economic and social transformation".
He appealed to delegates to look to the second transition policy proposal to achieve this objective , but his attempts floundered on the first day of the commissions.
However, as proceedings continued, ANC delegates agreed that the triple challenges could not be separated into a first and second transition.
As they moved from the plenary session into the various commissions to discuss the 13 policy documents, conversations were dominated by how Zuma continued to flip-flop on fundamental issues - both in government and in the party.
The ANC later agreed that the word ''transition'' would be replaced by ''phase''. Though the party continues to debate the wording of its documents, many South Africans are demanding changes to their lives.
It doesn't help whether their poverty is being tackled through concepts such as ''second transition'' or ''second phase''.
The auditor-general has recently pointed out that millions, if not billions, of rands of taxpayers' money are being lost due to corruption and inefficiencies in government.
With our civil servants enmeshed in ANC politics, the bigger challenge lies outside what is happening at Gallagher Estate.
For the ANC to make a difference in reshaping South Africa for the better, it also has to look itself in the mirror and accept that it is failing to deliver services to the people.
Those who have attacked Zuma and the second transition document have argued it was not the tools that were at fault in changing people's lives. The challenge was with those employed to use the tools, they say.
Zuma's critics say there have not been any fundamental changes in government, except that some of the ministries now have new names. They say,before the party agrees to a radical shift, assessment of the policy tools adopted since 1994 should be scrutinised.
Back in 2007, when Mbeki' s supporters realised the majority of ANC members were rejecting moves to allow him to remain the party's president even after the end of his term as the country' s president, h is troops flooded the media with stories saying Mbeki had won the fight to remain ANC president.
Those who stuck to the truth then were told they had missed the story and were just being sensational in their reporting.
Like in 2007, if Zuma does not listen to the complaints about his government's delivery failure, he will me et the same fate that felled Mbeki.
South Africans are tired of listening to sloganeering. They want real change in their lives.
If Zuma can't deliver, they will want him to go.
As the policy conference comes to a close today, the ANC will have to give South Africans hope of a better life.