The ANC elective conference is hurtling towards a photo finish. Both sides believe they can win. Their confidence and bravado — captured in their imaginative songs about the candidates — are unnerving. At one moment, it looks like CR17 is louder and has greater numbers; at the next, it seems the opposite. Initial projections on the basis of provincial general councils have now been overtaken by the consolidated branch nominations, which were presented in the conference plenary on Sunday evening. Intense lobbying is also continuing. So even though delegates are being "looked after" and quarantined in hotels, they may still shift their allegiance. And then there is the final difficulty: even though delegates carry a mandate from their branch and maybe another from their province or faction, voting is by secret ballot, making it possible for delegates to pervert either the will of the strong men in their province, their faction or their branch. It is incredibly difficult to read. The m...

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