But Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's bid to become the deputy president of the ANC finally floundered yesterday when she turned down her nomination from the floor of the party's 50th national conference.
In a rare moment of high drama at a conference for which the script was written long ago, Mrs Mandela, whose election was vehemently opposed by the party leadership, kept everyone guessing right up until the end.
Hours before the nomination, 3,000 ANC delegates, gathered in Mafikeng, North-west province, were persuaded to sanction a change of rules that made her nomination less likely.
A candidate, nominated from the floor, had needed the support of 10 per cent of delegates to go forward for election. The conference agreed to increase that to 25 per cent. Despite the odds, Mrs Mandela was still nominated by a member of the ANC Women's League, of which she is president.
When a seconder to the nomination was requested, between 50 and 100 delegates broke ranks and raised their hands. Mrs Mandela was then asked whether she accepted the nomination.
She looked at the poor show of support and asked the leadership what her options were. The conference held its breath while Thabo Mbeki, elected unopposed to replace President Mandela, rather politely ran through the rules. To a huge roar of approval from delegates Mrs Mandela apologised to her supporters and said she must decline the nomination.
And so ended months of manoeuvring to prevent the ascent of Mrs Mandela, recently implicated in TRC hearings in 8 murders.
The plate seller was crestfallen. Pointing to President Mandela's plate, he said: "That is the position she is aiming for."