Zuma's task is to spread the wealth
A few miles from the university campus where ANC delegates yesterday voted for their next president lies the village of Nobody Ga-Mothiba.
A dirt track runs to it from the main road, where convoys of dignitaries have barrelled past on their way to South Africa's ruling party conference. Some of its houses are made of brick, others are just metal shacks, and none has running water or electricity.
"As you see, we are suffering," said Peter Modiba (43), whose family is crammed into two rooms, with a third used as his mechanic's workshop.
"I'm making small money. I don't know how much but it's hard to live."
Asked how his life had improved in the 13 years since the end of apartheid in 1994, he looked nonplussed. "It's the same," he said.
These are the people who Jacob Zuma sought to champion in his campaign to take the ANC presidency, follow in the footsteps of such huge figures as Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela, both Nobel Peace Prize winners, and assume pole position to become president of Africa's most important country.
The ANC's great success as a governing party is that South Africa is a stable, peaceful country, and the predictions of doom that were made in the early 1990s have not been fulfilled.
But one in five South African households does not have access to electricity, three in 10 have no running water, unemployment is officially 25pc and by some estimates much higher, and crime is rampant.
At the same time wealthy black professionals, the so-called `black diamonds', many of them beneficiaries of Thabo Mbeki's Black Economic Empowerment policy, drive convertible sports cars and sip expensive cocktails in the bars of Johannesburg.
This is the dilemma that confronts the ANC -- how to spread the material benefits of democracy more widely.
The mood at Polokwane, though, with thousands of Mr Zuma's supporters chanting his name, indicates that growth statistics count for little among the party faithful.
"Clearly the way things are developing there's pressure within the ANC for a more populist approach and pressure to deliver to those who perceive they have been excluded from the benefits of democracy," said Nick Binedell, head of the Gordon Institute of Business Science. "The nature of the conference suggests there must be policy impact. This could come as quite a shock to the business community who have assumed a continuation of the economic framework."
Mr Zuma has sought to reassure South Africa's business leaders, repeatedly declaring that he will stick to the collective policies of the ANC.
Traditional Zulu who beat rape, corruption raps
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma happily admits to being a polygamist.
An unashamed Zulu traditionalist, he once told an interviewer, "There are plenty of politicians who have mistresses and children that they hide, so as to pretend they're monogamous. I prefer to be open. I love my wives and I'm proud of my children."
Mr Zuma has recognised at least 18 children from four "official" wives and several girlfriends.
Sex and virility have helped Mr Zuma to hone his image as an expansive African "big man" politician, champion of the poor and oppressed. His enemies gleefully counted him out when he was charged with corruption, and then of raping the daughter of a family friend.
The tide turned in his favour when the corruption charges were thrown out on a technicality in late 2005. Prosecutors say they may still reenter the charges, but Zuma is now within a whisker of presidential immunity and may push for early national elections.
He was acquitted last May in the rape case, albeit after admitting he had unprotected sex with a HIV-positive woman half his age who had come to him for support, and was reinstated to ANC duties.