It was a sight many would have preferred to have played itself out away from the eyes of the public. But the pressure cooker had mustered too much steam to contain itself.
Ultimately the tension release found expression in the ugly scenes that unfolded during the live telecast of the first day of the ANC conference in Polokwane on Sunday.
The scenes underlined the tone of the acrimonious race for the ANC presidency between President Thabo Mbeki and party deputy president Jacob Zuma. With the election of party president an immediate reality, the titanic battle between the duo had reached its apogee.
Strange, though, only a few would have expected the tensions not to spill over into the open at the indaba. The negative energy that characterised the lead-up to the conference seemed to prepare the nation for the worst.
This notwithstanding theworrying signs of disunity that persisted throughout the campaigning. An ANC in disarray and unable to hold itself in hand - this has been the emerging picture as the two camps jostle for centre space.
Though the chance of unity being forged during the conference remains a remote possibility, a tenuous peace pact should obtain in the end.
Most worrying is whether the ANC can muster the will to rise beyond the current factionalism once the presidential race is resolved.
A fragmented ANC beyond the conference paints an unedifying scenario with seminal implications for the country. Worse, it will certainly lower the morale of the masses who entrusted it with the responsibility of realising a democratic South Africa without the encumbrances of poverty and employment.
Whether the party is currently in a state of mind to appreciate the magnitude of this responsibility is a moot point.
Restoring party confidence and building unity inside the party and with alliance partners are the greatest challenges it faces beyond Polokwane. But the power to prime the party to rise to these challenges - including that of disunity - lies with the ANC delegates to the Polokwane conference.