Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa enjoyed a sharp lead yesterday in the contest to become the next head of the ANC, but the complexity of the leadership race means it is far from certain that he will become the next party leader and therefore the likely next president.
A majority of party regional delegates backed Ramaphosa ahead of an elective conference to be held in Johannesburg which will select a successor to ANC leader President Jacob Zuma between December 16 and 20.
Ramaphosa leads his closest rival, Zuma’s ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, by 529 regional delegates according to a provisional official tally released yesterday.
He now has 1 859 pledges to her 1 330. There are 4 731 delegates in all. A majority of nominations, however, is not the same as the most votes at the conference, which analysts say is a two-horse race between Ramaphosa and DlaminiZuma, 68.
Ramaphosa, 65, is considered the most market-friendly candidate, and signs that his campaign is doing well have driven a rally in South African assets in recent weeks.
But determining who will become ANC leader is still an inexact science.
Depending on the size of their membership, ANC branches from the country’s nine provinces will send different numbers of delegates to the conference.
Each branch gets one delegate for its first 100 members, with another delegate added for every additional 250 members.
Dlamini-Zuma has tended to win more nominations in provinces with larger ANC branches, but there is no verifiable way of calculating the number of delegates that candidates will have on their side at the conference.
And in any case, delegates are not bound to vote for the candidate their ANC branch nominated.
Institute of Race Relations chief executive Frans Cronje estimated delegate support for Ramaphosa at the conference could vary from 50% to 60%, depending on assumptions made.
Those assumptions include the ratio between branch nominations and delegates, and who the kingmaker province of Mpumalanga sides with. It is the secondlargest in terms of ANC membership, which is on the fence.
“The data we have points to a Ramaphosa victory, yet we are hesitant to call the race in his favour,” Cronje said.
Adding another level of complexity, the nominations tally is still being revised.
Some disgruntled ANC members have launched court cases and some branches are rerunning the meetings where nominations for party leader are made.
Yesterday, officials in KwaZulu-Natal – which will send the most conference delegates – published revised voting data that gave 21 additional nominations to Dlamini-Zuma, who has majority support from the area.
How the delegates will vote is also subject to vote-buying and intimidation – which are widely acknowledged to have swayed previous leadership contests but extremely difficult to quantify in terms of influence.
Branches account for 90% of the conference delegates.
The remainder comes from the ANC’s women’s, youth and veterans leagues, as well as a handful of provincial ANC officials.
It is unclear exactly how the leagues will vote, though the leaders of the youth and women’s leagues have publicly backed Dlamini-Zuma. Finally, Ramaphosa has to contend with Zuma’s control of large sections of the ANC, and Zuma has backed the candidacy of Dlamini-Zuma.
“Zuma can still deliver victory to Dlamini-Zuma,” independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga said.
“He controls the levers of the party and can influence how delegates vote.”
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe sought to allay fears that divisions within the party could spill into the open at the elective conference.
“Contestation for leadership must strengthen the ANC rather than weakening it,” he said.
“We are working very hard to ensure that the conference is steady and successful.”– Reuters, with additional reporting by AFP