North West premier Supra Mahumapelo is said to be embarking on a personal support rally, with plans to visit ANC branches across the province to mobilise party members on his side, should a battle of the factions in the province erupt.
The premier is expected to lead a "peace march" in the province's capital, Mahikeng, on Thursday. He will then address his supporters at the Montshioa Stadium. But as of 11am, only small groups of people had arrived. By noon, the crowd was no larger than 100 people.
The march is said to be one of a series of public appearances Mahumapelo intends to make in the coming weeks, and the reason why he has opted to take a leave of absence from the premier's office.
A source close to Mahumapelo said plans were underway to mobilise the premier's supporters in the country.
"He said it himself, didn't he? He promised he would visit everyone in North West and tell them the truth. That's what we will do. We will tell the people the truth about how [President Cyril Ramaphosa] is trying to push [Mahumapelo] out, because he did not support him in December [in the battle for the presidency at the ANC national conference]," the source said.
It appears that Mahumapelo needs to solidify his support in the province in preparation for various eventualities — for instance, if the ANC's highest decision-making body moves to disband North West's provincial executive committee, in which Mahumapelo holds overarching influence.
But this will be a worst-case scenario with elections only a year away.
Then there's the issue of his replacement, which the source said the ANC is split over on factional lines. He said Mahumapelo's supporters want Johannes Tselapedi, the province's former education MEC and a suspected fraudster, while Thandi Modise's name is being thrown around in the Ramaphosa camp.
The source said the ANC may opt to appoint a provincial caretaker in Mahumapelo's absence, until provincial structures meet to elect a new leadership.
Ramaphosa has since stripped Mahumapelo of his powers over the province's departments by placing North West under national administration. But Mahumapelo still holds sway as the party's chairperson in the province.
"We will make it clear — if Mahumapelo does not see the end of his term properly, then there will be big problems in the ANC. We will not vote. He has done nothing wrong; these are all accusations. Anybody can make accusations — it doesn't mean it is true," the source said.
"People say Mahumapelo does not have support in North West. Or they say that his support is getting less. We will see."