Perhaps it was a thinly veiled and rather passive-aggressive insult aimed at the young ones.
That is certainly how the leaders of the youth league delegation read it.
Why, they wanted to know, had they been seated at the far back corner of the cavernous hall at Gallagher Estate, right next to the toilets?
Perhaps it was a strategic peacekeeping decision; the position put the youth league as far away from the sometimes rabidly pro-Jacob Zuma supporters from the KwaZulu-Natal delegation, while keeping the two groups in the same room.
It also ensured that with the frail and the disposable (guests and tripartite alliance representatives) as a buffer in between, no real luminaries were put in the line of fire.
Whatever the intention, the youngsters were having none of it. As others were still fighting their way through a security choke point, the youth leaders picked up the rather large sign designating their seating and marched, in a determined clump, to a faraway, much more prime patch of real estate, just four rows back from the stage.
Not quite in spitting distance from, say, Jacob Zuma, but certainly in a position to easily raise a point of order, and be caught by the television cameras. Or maybe chuck a plastic water bottle, if necessary.
The land was unclaimed, but the neighbouring former liberators were not amused, and within minutes organisers were called in to mediate. Mediation, though, was not an unqualified success. Off went the place-marker board, back to its original location, carried this time by an organiser, while the small group of youth leaguers remained defiantly sitting in the places they had claimed, some with arms crossed, others with their berets in the air.
Things may not have ended there, except that proceedings finally kicked off, so they did.