The fight for the leadership of the ANC is getting more intense by the day. For the first time in decades, there are about eight women and men who deem themselves qualified to be president of the ANC. The number of candidates attests to the party’s troubles and the loss of prestige of the top job since President Jacob Zuma took the reins. That most of the candidates are campaigning on a ticket to “save” the ANC speaks volumes about his decade-long leadership.What is also different with this race, compared with the one five years ago – when then deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe refused to be drawn into an open race and campaigning – is the lack of self-effacing coyness in the candidates’ intentions. They are all unashamedly campaigning US style, punting themselves as the one best suited to lead.How the ANC conducts its business is the ANC’s business. But a worrying pattern has already begun to assert itself in KwaZulu-Natal, where political killings are becoming the norm.Former ANC Youth League secretary Sindiso Magaqa, who was buried yesterday, is one of the more prominent victims of these killings.Although the police are yet to arrest his killers, his family and friends maintain that his murder was politically motivated because he and two other ANC members – all three of them ward councillors – were shot in a suspected ambush as they were returning from a party meeting.The contest for leadership is tearing the ANC membership apart, with many increasingly choosing sides. And, with the courts having now become the platform for these factions to fight out their battles, the party leadership has been exposed for its failure to maintain control and discipline.There is a grave danger that, as factions try to create strongholds and impose their candidates, violence may be the result. It may be prudent for all the candidates to send a clear message to their followers that tolerance should be the hallmark of their campaigns.Every week brings the December conference that much closer, and the tension build-up is palpable. We see it in the allegations that are cropping up everywhere of dirty tricks, and of conferences and membership numbers being rigged.For now, these are internal ANC contradictions. But if not carefully monitored, they could spill over to affect the rest of society in regrettable ways.