African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, who is likely to replace Mr Mbeki as the country’s president, appeared in court this week facing charges of corruption.
Supporters of Zuma have threatened unrest if he is jailed for corruption.
The South African government says it is extremely concerned by threats by some ruling party supporters to make the country ungovernable.
Zuma has bid to have the charges against him dismissed. Other appeals will probably follow and his trial—if it happens at all—is unlikely to start before the election.
Critics accuse Zuma of delaying tactics, but hundreds of supporters, including ANC bigwigs and some cabinet ministers, went to the small town of Pietermaritzburg to support their champion.
They want the charges dismissed on the grounds that he is the victim of a political conspiracy and that a fair trial has become impossible.
There are worries as to how far Zuma’s zealous supporters may go.
The new leader of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, created a storm when he bellowed at a rally in June that he was ready to “kill” for Zuma.
The secretary-general of the Congress of South African Trade Unions has since expressed his undying support for Zuma by repeating Malema’s words.
Divisions within the ANC are rife. In the Western Cape, the ANC’s provincial secretary was stabbed in the neck at a party get-together.
Countless other party meetings and nominations of candidates have been marred by intimidation and allegations of patronage and vote-buying.
Meanwhile, violent crime remains high, food and petrol prices have soared and power-cuts earlier this year dented people’s confidence. The economy has slowed and higher interest rates are biting.
There were strikes across the country on August 6. Overall, there is a growing sense of doom down south.