BLOOD is said to have been spilt already ahead of the tension-ridden ANC's Eastern Cape elective conference.
Sowetan has reliably learnt that the registration of delegates turned violent with one person admitted to hospital with a cracked skull after a fight during a regional conference.
More than 2 000 delegates have descended on River Park Conference Centre in East London for the three-day provincial conference.
The top leadership of the ANC, including President Jacob Zuma and general secretary Gwede Mantashe are expected to make last- ditch efforts to stamp out divisions that threaten to collapse local governance in the province.
Already there are fears that the weekend conference could be disbanded prematurely if the ANC top brass does not quell the tension.
The contestants for the position of provincial chairperson are finance and economic development MEC Mcebisi Jonas and health MEC Phumulo Masualle.
ANC insiders have revealed that there was a move to get the two candidates "to withdraw" from the race because it is felt that the election of either would create further divisions within the party.
Eastern Cape remains the most powerful province of the ANC's, accounting for more than 153000 of its 621000 party membership.
Luthuli House is also hoping to stamp its authority on the conference - and send a strong message to other provinces, including Gauteng, where signs of pre-conference tensions are already evident with reports of bad blood between current chairperson Paul Mashatile and his deputy Nomvula Mokonyane.
Political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said divisions between Jonas and Masualle could destabilise the Eastern Cape and pose a threat to the premiership of Noxolo Kiviet.
A member of the ANC's national executive committee told Sowetan that the power struggle in the Eastern Cape was "all about power and patronage".