THE battle for control of Gauteng is heading for its final showdown this week when Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane takes on incumbent Paul Mashatile for the position of provincial chairperson.
As nominations draw to a close an outright winner has not yet emerged.
Mokonyane and Mashatile are reportedly running neck-and-neck, clearing the way for an all-out struggle set to be decided on the voting floors of the elective conference in Tshwane from Thursday to Sunday, when the victor will be announced.
Everything is at stake and as the battle for control in the ANC intensifies by the day, several reports point to ANC Gauteng members being drawn into scuffles over nominations for the new leadership.
On Thursday last week the Gauteng ANC Youth League's provincial executive committee (PEC) pronounced in favour of Mokonyane.
The move evoked an angry response at the weekend from branches supporting current chairperson and Deputy Arts and Culture Minister Mashatile - waging what is seen as open rebellion against the provincial youth league's leadership.
But Sunday saw Mokonyane getting a further boost when the Gauteng Women's League PEC announced they were supporting her candidacy.
The events of the past weeks have pitted comrade against comrade and if what is unfolding as part of the build-up to the coming elective conference is anything to go by, a gigantic battle - with signs reminiscent of events leading to the ANC's Polokwane national conference of 2007 - is imminent.
The Gauteng duel for power, like the Polokwane affair, has another dimension to it - the raging debate over the "two centres of power".
Preceding the Polokwane conference were pronouncements about the outcome of the leadership contest - accompanied by gruelling and often dirty campaigns littered with accusations of delegates being offered bribes that would swing the vote one way or the other.
In that milieu substantive issues faded into insignificance as the conference degenerated into personality contests.
The "two centres of power" practice has wreaked havoc in the past, service delivery being its first casualty.
The ANC Polokwane conference pronounced against "the two centres of power", the reason former president Thabo Mbeki lost out to current President Jacob Zuma.
This in-fighting trend is slowly eating away at the ANC's moral fibre, with cadres' loyalty being swayed from the organisation to serve the interest of individuals.
Branch general meetings (commonly known as BGMs) and regional meetings have become battlegrounds for positions, and this characterises the nomination period building up to the Gauteng conference.
These unsavoury events even prompted Gauteng ANC provincial secretary David Makhura to issue a statement warning that there was a general decline of discipline among the ranks of the ANC at all levels of party leadership.
He said the sentiment was expressed by branch members of the ANC at their general meetings in the run-up to the ANC Gauteng provincial conference.
Members, said Makhura, also expressed concern about the use of money to influence the election of leaders in the organisation's structures.
Some people think that, coming from Makhura, this is a bit rich
Makhura is known to have declared his intentions to stand for re-election as provincial secretary for the fourth consecutive term.
In doing so Makhura is seen as an interested party, not only in the outcome of the conference but also in manipulating the processes leading up to it, playing both referee and player.
Sitting as the provincial secretary makes him responsible for all the logistical preparations of the conference. And it is feared that this gives him and his group an unfair advantage over other candidates. Makhura is said to be running on the Mashatile slate.
It is believed that this state of affairs, has unleashed a dirty tricks campaign that includes targeted leaks to the media, intimidation, threats and suspensions and intense rivalry by supporters of both Mashatile and Mokonyane.
For example, the current provincial leadership under Mashatile is accused of responding to media leaks selectively through communications director Dumisa Ntuli.
There have been several newspaper articles based on un-named sources purporting, rightly or wrongly, that Mashatile was leading the race, this going against set guidelines.
In turn, an article and a letter in Sowetan seeking to correct the biased impression that Mashatile was in the lead, solicited an angry response from Ntuli, also thought to be rooting for the Mashatile camp.
Several cases of intimidation and threats have been reported, but no action has been taken.
But one thing is certain, after this weekend whoever wins, the Gauteng ANC will have sorted out its two centres of power issue, one way or another.
l The writer is a media and political commentator