Despite ANC figures showing deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead over Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) in the race for the ANC presidency, the reality is that there is no clear winner in sight at this stage.
All political experts who spoke to The Citizen were unanimous that there is a lot of ground to be covered before the likely winner was known and therefore it was difficult to make a prediction at this point.
Just over a week before the state of the party’s elective national conference, the race is still relatively a neck-and-neck affair between Ramaphosa and his next contender, Dlamini-Zuma. This is the case although all the ANC provinces had announced their preferences.
Ramaphosa has collected just over 55% of the ANC’s national branches to his cause, with most of the rest going to Dlamini-Zuma. But, nominations by branches do not equate to actual votes, so the race is still wide open.
Political analyst Prof Susan Booysen from Wits University described the ANC presidential race as a marathon and not a 100-metre sprint. She said there are at least 2 000 delegates whose votes were unclear to whom they were attached.
She said the fact that Ramaphosa was leading the race according to branch nomination should be a source of worry to the Dlamini-Zuma camp.
“The NDZ camp did not expect this – they expected a lead, even a comfortable lead. They were sure that the race would be sealed in her favour, but we know that it has not turned out that way,” she said.
Analyst Ralph Mathekga said there were too many disputes at the moment and prediction would be impossible until those were resolved. But another analyst, Prof Sipho Seepe, said the nomination numbers speak for themselves that Ramaphosa is the most preferred by branches.
But branches were different in size and the size determined the number of delegates each is entitled to send to the conference.
“There are speculations that if these are factored the race is neck and neck. This without considering Mpumalanga – should Mpumalanga support Dlamini-Zuma then it is game over. Given Ramaphosa’s expressed preference for deputy president, it is likely that Premier Mabuza may throw his hat in with Dlamini-Zuma,” Seepe said.
In what was a foregone conclusion, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo pronounced Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa as their candidates respectively. Although Mpuma langa now favours Dlamini-Zuma, still the overall process puts Ramaphosa ahead.
It was always expected that after Dlamini-Zuma had placed Mpumalanga ANC provincial leader David Mabuza on her electoral slate, Mpumalanga, which initially nominated unity, would turn around and put its weight behind Dlamini-Zuma.
Many pundits had been accusing Mabuza of being a political opportunist who would pretend to be a kingmaker but is in fact eyeing a plush position at the top.
Mabuza is seen as a master strategist who always played the role of a broker in game. His approach had gained him notoriety as a political opportunist. He did the same in the run-up to Polokwane when he initially favoured Thabo Mbeki. But when he realised that the situation favoured Jacob Zuma, he changed sides.