The unprecedented outcome – the dissolution of the OR Tambo regional conference and the withholding of the election results – was scheduled to be scrutinised during a meeting of the ANC's top-six officials on August 13, according to two ANC leaders. This comes after regional leaders lodged a complaint with Luthuli House.
The regional leaders complained in a letter about alleged interference in delegates' credentials and electoral processes by ANC provincial executive committee member Mlibo Qoboshiyane and deputy provincial secretary Helen August.
They also accused a deputy government minister, who was part of the regional credential committee, of having acted in an "unbecoming manner" by, among other things, taking photos at the conference venue with her iPad, handing out tags of voting delegates to some individuals who were not accredited and interfering with the electoral process.
"She was seen distributing voting tags and actively campaigning for her preferred candidates inside and outside the conference venue. We believe her conduct to be a violation of the ANC's constitution that warrants discipline," the letter states.
The OR Tambo region is the party's second-largest region in South Africa after eThekwini in KwaZulu-Natal and the outcome of its conference will have a significant bearing on who between President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe emerges as leader at the conference in Mangaung.
The region also constitutes 70% of the Eastern Cape delegates who will attend the Mangaung conference.
The results leaked to the media show that the anti-Zuma camp in the region won by a slight margin.
This week, three provincial ANC leaders as well as two ANC Youth League leaders expressed concern about the "undemocratic tendencies" that were emerging during party conferences.
"Democratic processes are being undermined and we must be worried as a nation, because how can a party leading a democratic nation undermine internal party-political democracy. It is unprecedented. Polokwane was a different story, but even then processes were followed.
'If the custodians of our party are involved in messing up democratic process and are actively engaging in what is not right, our future as a country does not look good," said a neutral provincial leader, who did not want to be named.
A national ANC leader conceded that the outcome of the OR Tambo conference was "unprecedented" and "must be investigated".
"You cannot hold back results. Even if there are disputes, you table them to the appropriate structure after you have announced the results.
"The OR Tambo conference is very simple. A conference can close only once the results have been announced," said the ANC leader.
This source played down the crisis, however, saying that it was not indicative of what might transpire in Mangaung.
ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza concurred: "Mangaung cannot be determined by one regional conference. There are no undemocratic process in the ANC. We will not tolerate undemocratic tendencies in the party."
Political analyst William Gumede said: "The danger is that there is a real possibility that the Mangaung election could turn into chaos like what we saw [happen] in the Eastern Cape.
"Intimidation shenanigans mean that votes are not fair or clean and the people who lose will never be happy.
"The greatest danger in the Eastern Cape scenario is that those who lose will always clinch a fight back leading to a perpetual paralysis. The ANC must manage internal elections cleanly."