ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma blasted President Thabo Mbeki's supporters at the weekend.
With only six days left before the party's national conference in Polokwane, Zuma led an onslaught, accusing Mbeki's camp of trying to turn the ANC into a party of mercenaries and for undermining democracy.
"Let us not change the ANC into something that we do not know. Let us not change the ANC into a mercenary organisation," Zuma told members of ANC, Cosatu and SACP at a rally in Westonaria yesterday.
At the organised 90th anniversary of the Russian revolution, Zuma's camp used the rally to counter what has been seen as the Mbeki side's strategy to close the gap with his opponent in the ANC presidential race.
Zuma attacked Mbeki's supporters who have criticised the ANC Women's League for nominating Zuma for the top job.
The league has also drawn the wrath of gender activists, who described the nomination as betrayal of the struggle for women's emancipation. They felt Zuma was a particularly unsuitable candidate for the top job because of the sexist utterances he made at his rape trial last year. Zuma has apologised for his remarks.
High-ranking league members who support Mbeki, including Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Education Minister Naledi Pandor, also criticised the decision, saying it undermined the struggle for gender parity within the ANC.
Yesterday Zuma said those who were against the decision were subverting democracy.
"If people exercise their democratic right they should be allowed to do so."