Faced with the prospect of losing the Western Cape to a DA-led coalition in next year's general election, ANC president Jacob Zuma cracked the whip on his party's divided provincial leadership and ordered them to stop bickering.
Zuma warned the two camps - led on the one hand by provincial chairperson James Ngculu and Premier Ebrahim Rasool, and by provincial secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha on the other - that their political infighting could cost the ANC control of the Western Cape.
Addressing more than 1 000 people at an ANC rally in Khayelitsha on Sunday, Zuma said it was vital for both camps to openly discuss their differences and forge unity before the election.
Before the watershed Polokwane conference, the Ngculu and Rasool camp had backed Thabo Mbeki for a third term as party president, while the Skwatsha group wanted Zuma to take over the reins at Luthuli House.
Tension between the camps persist five months after a new leadership under Zuma emerged from Polokwane.
Realising the potential damage the divisions might have in terms of a DA-led coalition wresting the Western Cape from the ANC, Zuma said his party could not afford to lose the province.
If infighting continued, the provincial leadership would open itself up to the opposition, which would take advantage and garner more votes.
Stressing the need for unity Zuma, who spoke in Xhosa, said: "Here in the Western Cape we had (political) infighting and we lost the City of Cape Town. I hope we understand that. We suffered afterwards. We were ruled by people who were not sure whether they were coming or going."
Without mentioning the two camps by name, he said the squabbles must end as a matter of urgency.
"Unity is the most powerful weapon of the ANC. That is why it was established - to unite the people of this country.
"We have a huge task as the ANC to lead this country. There is no other political party. It's important that we must unite comrades to better the lives of the people of South Africa.
"If there is a problem, let that be discussed. If you prevent people from talking, they start gossiping. They go a step further and want to harm you. If I was wrong, I must be corrected," said Zuma.
He reminded ANC members that the elections were around the corner and there was no time to waste. It was important that party members worked hard to build the ANC.
"We shall build this organisation. Even God expects us to rule this country because we are the only organisation which was blessed by pastors when it was formed.
"It is even blessed in Heaven. That is why we will rule until Jesus comes back. We should not allow anyone to govern our city (Cape Town) when we are ruling the country," he said.
ANC Women's League president Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula also spoke of unity, urging party members to work to build a strong ANC.
"Let us forget our small differences. Let us rally our forces to win the Western Cape," she said, adding: "Let us stop this fighting. We have a history of division in this province."
"We can't have the luxury to be preoccupied by (political) differences. It doesn't matter (if) you don't like me. What brought us together is the ANC. Let us unite and stop this nonsense of divisions."