CONFUSION reigned at the head office of the Congress of the People in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, yesterday ahead of the party's first elective conference today.

The party national executive committee spent yesterday debating a proposal by its president Mosiuoa Lekota for the conference to be postponed.

Lekota and Cope deputy president Mbhazima Shilowa have been nominated to contest the position of party president at the party's conference in Pretoria.

The congress national committee meeting followed a deadlock during a meeting of the party's national working committee on Monday.

Sources said the meeting sought to stop a split proposed by some of Lekota's supporters, a suggestion that he should walk away from the party if the Shilowa faction insisted on having an elective conference.

Lekota won a new ally in Cope KwaZulu-Natal, which also called for a postponement. KZN chairperson Phillip Mhlongo said the meeting should resolve the leadership conflict before going to the conference.

"We are saying political problems must be solved by the political structures concerned and we want to finalise that.

"As KZN we want to avoid the arithmetic approach of which provinces are for conference and which ones are not for conference."

Mhlongo said Cope members became more concerned about the state of the party after Archbishop Desmond Tutu pulled out as a VIP guest at the conference.

"When you have Archbishop Desmond Tutu pulling out of congress saying your conference is muddied then the waters are very polluted," he said.