• See our special feature on Polokwane 2007.

    By Deon de Lange and Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

    With only a day to go before the crucial African National Congress conference, party senior leaders are still at each other's throats.

    ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula has called Finance Minister Trevor Manuel an "attention-seeking drama queen".

    Mbalula's blistering letter to Manuel is likely to come up at a special national executive committee (NEC) meeting just before the conference.

    This follows another exchange between ANC chairperson Mosiuoa Lekota and Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya regarding the former's attack on party deputy president Jacob Zuma.

    Lekota said there would be a special NEC meeting "30 minutes before the conference" to discuss ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe's report, as some members had questioned its content.

    As tempers flare amid the intense showdown between supporters of ANC president Thabo Mbeki and Zuma, Mbalula on Thursday responded to Manuel's letter to Mo Shaik.

    Shaik, a Zuma adviser, has suggested that they could keep Manuel on a Zuma cabinet if he could be flexible enough in his macro-economic approach.

    In his response, Manuel chastised Shaik and referred to Mbalula as "the other self-appointed spokesperson of the national democratic revolution".

    In a letter addressed to "Comrade Trevor", Mbalula said Manuel's utterances were "typical of a drunk who, in his moment of stupor, tells you the 'truths' he has always been afraid to tell while sober.

    "But then, I also remember the little fact that you can be an attention-seeking drama queen if you want to," the letter continues.

    Categorising Manuel's response to Shaik as "arrogant", Mbalula accuses the finance minister of reacting to Shaik in the manner that he did because he does not support Zuma's candidacy.

    The exchanges could culminate in a bitter showdown on Sunday as delegates nominate leaders for the top six positions, which could include nominations from the floor.

    It is unlikely that a third presidential candidate will emerge.

    The results will be announced only on the last day of the conference, on Thursday.

  • See our special feature on Polokwane 2007.