Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: SOWETAN and REUTERS
Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: SOWETAN and REUTERS

The ANC presidential race is set to go down to the wire, with swing provinces such as Mpumalanga rendering the fight too close to call.

While many have placed Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead, it is clear from the numbers that a victory is not yet guaranteed for either side.

His main opponent still remains Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose backers are confident of her chances, based on her backing in KwaZulu-Natal and the faction known as the premier league provinces.

Number crunchers on both sides are claiming the upper hand, but the uncertainties about which way Mpumalanga, the party’s second-largest delegation to the conference, will go, continue to prevail.

In addition, Business Day understands that the Free State and North West have largely kept their nomination results under wraps, lending further uncertainty to which way the race will swing.

There are set to be 5,240 delegates at the conference.

Number crunchers backing Ramaphosa said on Thursday there was a 75% probability that 70% of the delegates would vote for him.

They had placed Dlamini-Zuma at receiving the bulk of the remaining 30% of the delegates. However, it was conceded that this could be an underestimation of her support.

Ramaphosa’s campaigners say KwaZulu-Natal is "close", but Dlamini-Zuma backers are confident of a clean sweep in the party’s largest province.

Analysis from another Ramaphosa-aligned group of provinces, however, indicates the race largely depends on Mpumalanga. Without its support, Dlamini-Zuma could slightly trail Ramaphosa and vice versa. Mpumalanga leader David Mabuza is on Dlamini-Zuma’s slate as deputy president, but he is said to be resistant to backing either faction and has opted for a "unity" approach.

Dlamini-Zuma’s backers say 2,700 to 3,000 delegates will vote for her at the conference, also on a 75% probability.

These numbers underestimate Ramaphosa’s support.

The figures are from a caucus meeting last week.

They argue that five provinces support Ramaphosa, but together they would not bring enough delegates to outnumber her support.

They argue that the two largest provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, are behind her as well as the Free State, North West and the ANC Women’s League and the party’s youth league, which are counted as a province each.

Her backers insist that her support in the Free State alone outweighs Ramaphosa’s support in two provinces, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, while his support in Gauteng is nullified by Dlamini-Zuma’s in North West.

They further argue that his backing in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo is cancelled by her support in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal respectively.

A clearer picture is set to emerge after the provincial general councils.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said this week the councils had to be concluded by the end of next weekend.

The process is being held differently this time. At the councils branch nominations will be read out which will indicate which way delegates would be voting.

Insiders said that this was a "far better system" as it would be easy to determine if there was a large disjuncture between the branch nominations and how delegates voted.

As there is one delegate for every branch with 100 members and an additional one delegate for every branch with 250 members, it could be determined whether delegates were "bought, bribed or influenced".

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