Outgoing ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe says "dirty tricks" plagued the run-up to the party's elective conference‚ currently under way near Soweto.
Mantashe likened the ANC leadership race to the succession battle in the Nationalist Party‚ following the assassination of apartheid founder Hendrik Verwoerd.
He said "history has a way of repeating itself"‚ pointing out that apartheid South Africa took a turn for the worse when Nationalist Party securocrats unleashed a dirty tricks campaign against Verwoerd's would-be successor Ben Schoeman. Instead‚ the party paved the way for reviled securocrat BJ Vorster.
Mantashe's apartheid reference could be viewed as a veiled warning to ANC delegates‚ and the country alike‚ about the implications of the outcome of the conference.
He said: "I saw signs of those dirty tricks as we were coming to this conference and I said 'that is politics'. That is where we are."
Mantashe has repeatedly called for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed outgoing party leader Jacob Zuma‚ failing which the organisation should explain why the deputy president should not ascend to the presidency.
Critics of Mantashe have called him out for his stance‚ even arguing that he could not be relied on to oversee a fair and credible conference as he had already picked a side.
Mantashe‚ in his last briefing as party secretary general‚ said he had deliberately kept his relationship with Zuma professional. Failure to do so would have resulted in "more mistakes"‚ Mantashe said.
Mantashe also spoke out against slate politics.
He said: "Slate politics weaken an organisation. Slate politics marginalise good activists. You can see in the process (of electing leaders) we've done a lot to do away with factionalism. I'm not saying we have eliminated it."
Delegates on Sunday insisted that they should be allowed to carry a list of preferred names to be elected onto the National Executive Committee (NEC) into the voting booth‚ in line with their branch mandate.