Free State Premier Ace Magashule faces a revolt, as some in his province plot a second "regime change" ahead of the ANC's May provincial congress.
Several sources have confirmed to News24 that a meeting to find ways to unseat Magashule, who is also ANC Free State chairperson, took place two weeks ago. Those in attendance included former provincial ANC and government officials.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko refused to discuss the allegations. Attempts to reach Magashule were unsuccessful.
A businessman once closely linked to Magashule said: "We need to try and remove the monster, and then we will see after."
A regional leader who participated in the meeting told News24 the province needed to get rid of "negative tendencies" associated with Magashule and consolidate and strengthen the ANC in the Free State.
Those in attendance were willing to resort to the courts before the ANC's national elective conference in December, he said.
Some had already found a replacement for Magashule, in his deputy and former Mangaung mayor Thabo Manyoni.
Manyoni told News24 he had been approached and was available for the position, but would not be keen to stand if Magashule wanted to stay on.
"Some people are gatekeepers in the organisation, as a result very good people are excluded in the process," Manyoni told News24.
It was worrying that political positions were seen as a path to power and financial resources.
"It should really be about the people," he said.
The ANC in the province had a leadership dispute in the lead-up to its 2012 conference. Some members pushed for "regime change". The Constitutional Court ruled that the elective conference was unlawful.
Magashule has been at the helm in the province for 25 years. A former official, who served alongside him, said he had left a wake of destruction.
Another source told News24 that many of those seeking Magashule's downfall were willing to go back to the courts, as they had in 2012. They would seek to frustrate his chances of becoming part of the ANC's top leadership at its national elective conference in December.
"We are aware that our actions might have some implications on his ambitions, but what he has been doing here, he's likely to do at national level," he said.
"All his deputies, his provincial secretaries are nowhere to be found, he's thrown everyone else away," said a former official.
The official said he was worried that those currently in provincial structures would not feature following the May conference. They included Manyoni, who he said should be the next leader, ANC Free State secretary William Bulwane, and police MEC Sam Mashinini.
Meeko refused to comment on the allegations, but shouted over the phone: "You can't reduce the chair of the ANC to running after the faceless allegations."
He said people could not speak of processes about the upcoming conference as no work had started. --News24Suggest a correction