Zuma and Mbeki have tried to present a united front
South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma - the man he sacked as his deputy - have put on a show of unity, following a bitter row that threatened to split the governing ANC party.
"We wish to assert that there is one ANC, and therefore reject the notion that individuals should be required to choose sides, on the basis of the absolutely false assertion that we lead two contending factions within the movement," the two leaders said in a joint statement after meeting last week.
Mr Zuma was sacked in June after his financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, was convicted of corruption, in a trial that raised questions about Mr Zuma's possible complicity in Mr Schaik's activities.
The current events present a real danger of steadily but surely eroding public confidence in the ANC
Not long after that, the former deputy president was himself charged with corruption.
Mr Zuma retains support among many of the ANC's provincial structures and Youth League, as well as the party's traditional allies in the trade unions and the South African Communist Party.
His more vocal supporters have maintained that the criminal charges are part of a conspiracy - for evidence, they point to the fact that Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, an Mbeki ally who was appointed to succeed Mr Zuma as deputy president, is married to Bulelani Ngcuka, the former chief prosecutor who began more than two years ago to investigate Mr Zuma.
Commentators differ on whether the dispute represents a choice between the charismatic, down-to-earth Mr Zuma and the aloof intellectual President Mbeki - or whether it is really a clash of ideologies, with Mr Mbeki representing the conservative economic policies adopted by South Africa since 1996, and Mr Zuma flying the flag for the ANC's socialist tradition.
Mr Zuma's supporters say charges against him were politically motivated
Opposition parties and most newspapers, meanwhile, are outraged that a man facing criminal charges can retain such popular support.
The ANC itself this week acknowledged that recent events had presented "a real danger of steadily but surely eroding public confidence in the ANC".
Farouk Chothia of the BBC African Service says the starting point for the recent talks between Mr Mbeki and Mr Zuma that the two leaders did not want to be seen as presiding over the destruction over the ANC.
But the promises of unity come at a time when Mr Mbeki has been looking increasingly isolated within his own party.
Late last week, a court ruling made in Mr Zuma's favour against the police Special Investigations Unit (the Scorpions) appeared at least partly to vindicate the former deputy president.
The decision dates back to an incident last month when armed officers from the Scorpions raided Mr Zuma's home and offices, as well as the home and offices of his lawyer.
It's just short-term relief - the long-term crisis will persist
William Mervyn Gumede, political writer
Mr Zuma's supporters interpreted this as a clear sign that their man was the victim of a political vendetta.
The Johannesburg High Court ruled that aspects of the raid - in particular the seizure of documents from the office of Julie Mohamed, a practising attorney - were irregular.
The Scorpions have acknowledged that they made a mistake, but they say it was not international; the court accepted that the raid was not malicious.
Mr Zuma has now given the Scorpions an ultimatum to return documents which, he claims, they had seized from his premises; failing that, he says he will go to court.
He is also considering legal action to have the charges against him dropped on the grounds that raids violate his right to a fair trail.
Two weeks ago, the tensions rose when Mr Mbeki published a letter on the ANC website, calling for an inquiry into allegations that certain ANC members - including the president himself - were involved in a plot to discredit Mr Zuma.
Mr Mbeki denies that such a plot exists, but some of Mr Zuma's supporters reacted by saying that the inquiry proposed by the president did nothing to resolve real differences within the ANC.
Mbeki denies being part of a plot to discredit Zuma
After this weekend's meeting, ANC secretary-general Kgalema Mothlanthe said there was agreement in principle to appoint a commission of inquiry to look into claims that Mr Zuma is a victim of a conspiracy - as proposed by the president.
Yet the joint statement could yet prove to be no more than a temporary truce.
"It's just short-term relief - the long-term crisis will persist," said William Mervyn Gumede, author of a recent book about the ANC.
Rapule Tabane of the Mail & Guardian newspaper argues that "at the heart of the battle for the soul of the ANC is not a choice between Zuma or Mbeki.
"The battle is about influence and control of the appropriate economic policy models for the country."
Mr Zuma's first court appearance is scheduled for October. Previous legal moves against him or Mr Schaik have drawn angry protests - and the mood on the streets next month will be the clearest indication of whether South Africa has made peace with itself over the dispute that has ripped through the highest levels of its government.