Hundreds of cars and busses clogged the streets of Midrand on Tuesday morning as thousands of ANC delegates tried to gain access to Gallagher Convention Centre where the ANC is holding its four-day policy conference, the final mass gathering before the party heads to Mangaung in December to finalise its policy choices and elect a new leadership collective.
President Jacob Zuma was scheduled to address party members for an hour from 09.10am on Tuesday, but by 10am barely one third of delegates - about 1 000 people - had managed to gain entry to the venue, where they gathered in jovial groups to warm the morning chill with song and dance.
Hundreds of people were also queueing outside as multiple security checks - including metal detectors - slowed progress to a crawl.
Meanwhile, ANC national executive committee members avoided some of the queues as dozens of officers from the SA Police Sevice (Saps) and the Johannesburg Metro Police (JMPD) whisked them off to privilaged parking.
Less fortunate was recently dismissed national police commissioner Bheki Cele who was still waiting to be accredited to attend the conference. Seemingly in good spirits, Cele cracked a smile as journalists greeted him. Despite his exit from the police, Cele remains a popular politician, particularly in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Petterson, who suspended her director-general, Langa Zita, this week, was also among the VIPs rushing around as the clock kept ticking.
But it soon became clear that the programme, which was to begin with Zuma's speech, would likely be delayed.
Even ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe had difficulties getting into the venue. In an interview wth SAFM he said he had to "argue" with security officials at the gate to gain entry and added that he did not understand why the most brilliant minds were not deployed outside the venue to handle security. The ANC then moved speedily to improve communications between its own security ogfficals and the police. ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu was overheard on his phone berating officials for the slow progress.
Other notables spotted in the crowd included executive committee member Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who, seated next to presidential hopeful, Tokyo Sexwale, was greeted warmly by ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe. The Eastern Cape delegation entered the hall singing a song in support of Zuma, loosely translated as: "while they burn the t-shirt of Zuma, we'll pull the trigger on them" - in apparent reference to the increasingly common tendency of ANC members to burn t-shirts bearing the faces of those leaders they disapprove of.
Delegates from the ANC Youth League - whose relationship with the motherbody is at an all time low - were placed in the furthest corner of the hall, far from the long main tanble in front where members of the national executive committee sat. Only journalists - relegated to the distant back corner of the venue - were placed further away from the action.
At 10.30am ANC chairwoman Baleka Mbete called the meeting to order and invited the chaplain-general to open the session with prayer.