The latest estimations based on 74% of branch general meeting nominations place Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead for the ANC presidency. Yet, the race is still too close to call, says the IRR's Frans Cronje.What is the current status of the ANC leadership race? In a note to subscribers this week we said:"We have a problem. We have data in our possession on the current status of the ANC leadership race, but we cannot authenticate it. So we had to make a choice – either sit on the data and not share it with subscribers, or share it while warning that it should be treated with the greatest caution and clients should remain hedged for all scenarios. However, being overly cautious could mean not sharing early insights that might turn out to be significant."The answer to your question is, therefore, complicated by the absence of officially corroborated data, the partisan nature of ANC camps (that leak the data), and the risk of disinformation campaigns. Nor do we like working with uncorroborated data sourced from leaks and other low-credibility sources. But the nature of the internal ANC struggle means that we will have nothing better to work with, and we have decided to share some of what we have while warning readers to remain sceptical and treat the data with caution – knowing that we do not vouch for it. That said, if the data is accurate it shows that 74% of branches have made nominations and that a clear lead has developed for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Has Ramaphosa received enough support to win? To win a majority of 50%+1 of branch nominations, we estimate that a candidate requires in the region of 1 956 such nominations. The data we have shows that Ramaphosa may currently have 1 876 such nominations. To secure a majority of branch delegates, we estimate that a candidate needs 2 341 such delegates. Ramaphosa may currently have 2 245 such delegates. Ramaphosa has therefore received in the region of 65% of nominations to date. How is Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's campaign doing?The data shows that the camp of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has received 889, or 30% of nominations to date, while the balance of around 5% has gone to other candidates – mainly to Dr Zweli Mkhize. From the branch numbers, we estimate that Dlamini-Zuma has in the region of 1 064 delegates on her side. Why is Dlamini-Zuma's camp seemingly doing so badly?Let us treat the data with caution – her camp has also suggested that Ramaphosa's lead is a function of branches that support him reporting earlier than branches that might support her camp. Despite that, should the data suggesting his lead be accurate, we are beginning to think that it reflects polling we have been doing in recent years showing that a comfortable majority of South Africans hold moderate middle-of-the-road opinions and do not, at this time, support the brand of economic and political populism and racial nationalism promoted by her camp. Possibly that 'moderate middle' may have come through very strongly at ANC branch level. How do you anticipate the race ending? In our models, if Dlamini-Zuma's camp secures 50% of the remaining branches and retains what we estimate is her 70% majority of league votes, then Ramaphosa will win the race with 57.7% of the vote. If she secures 60% of the outstanding branches and 70% of the league votes, he will win with 55.3% of the vote. If she secures 70% both of outstanding branches and leagues, he will win with a 52.9% majority. This third case narrows the race outcome enough to make a confident call in Ramaphosa's favour premature, particularly where rigging becomes a factor. Be warned that in any of these cases it could take between just 210 and 500 rigged votes to swing the race against the Ramaphosa camp. All these estimates are, therefore, contingent on rigging and corruption not swaying the results by more than a few percentage points. Is Dlamini-Zuma's camp too far behind to catch up?If the data is correct, our models suggest that to secure a branch or delegate majority, Dlamini-Zuma now requires just over 100% of the outstanding branch nominations and branch delegates.Then why have you not yet called the race in favour of Ramaphosa?For four reasons. The first is that we cannot confirm the veracity of the data from non-partisan sources – although a range of sources with vested interests in the result have said it is accurate. The second is that nominations do not automatically translate into votes and that decoy nominations may intentionally have been placed to mislead analysts. The third is that nefariousness, vote rigging, and corruption may yet sway the final result and it is difficult to determine to what extent such nefariousness is on the go. The fourth is that one of our models shows that if Dr Dlamini-Zuma's camp is correct in suggesting that many branches sympathetic to her have yet to report then Mr Ramaphosa's lead may be reduced to a much smaller majority, making the race closer than it appears at this time – and therefore making the outcome highly vulnerable to rigging and decoy nominations. How great do you believe is the extent of vote buying and rigging?It is impossible to say. The consequences of losing control of the government and the ruling party would be devastating for many of those who have associated closely with President Zuma. They could lose a lot of money and may even go to jail. Many in his camp, however, have a track record as effective strategists, and our analysts have always been well served by giving that camp the benefit of the doubt when other analysts were calling Zuma's demise. We got the calls in favour of the Zuma camp right in 2007, 2009, 2012, and 2014. This time, though, the data is against the Zuma camp – and we are waiting to see how that camp will respond. If the broader Zuma camp knows that it will lose, what do you think it will do?We do not know. It might negotiate a deal for President Zuma and some of his insiders – similar to what President Mugabe is trying to do in Zimbabwe at this time. There is an interesting parallel there. If the data we received last week is accurate, then both Zimbabwe and South Africa may have experienced significant leadership reversals in the past week. If that is true for South Africa, we may have reached a very dangerous juncture and observers must be open to the risk that Zuma's camp might stage a ruthless fight back, try to collapse the ANC conference, or resort to internal appeals and even the courts to delay the conference. That could, in turn, trigger the ANC clone option we raised with you in the interview prior to this one. The reincorporation of the EFF into an ANC faction is also still in play. The point is that, while the data suggests a particular outcome, the political reality remains fluid. If Ramaphosa wins, what does that mean for South Africa?It will give an immediate boost to the country and the morale of its people. Investor perceptions will begin to shift. Bond yields and the currency will move sharply. But Ramaphosa will, however, need to drive immediate governance and economic reforms to capitalise on that initial momentum. - Frans Cronje is a scenario planner and CEO of the Institute of Race Relations – a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.