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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
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This was always going to be a very noisy year of political theatre and with only a month before the ANC conference, the volume has been turned up dramatically.
Last Friday, a tweet claiming that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is going to win the race for the Presidency grabbed everyone's attention. Even the rand strengthened on the back of it.
Yet, if you look closely at the figures that were quoted in the tweet, there are a lot of uncertainties that could still change matters.
For example, the figures did not indicate the support for Zweli Mkhize in KwaZulu-Natal, which could swing the outcome there, nor did it reflect the huge number of disputes.
The results for the Free State and KZN were extracted from less than 50% of the total branches and, of course, all of these results came from a source or sources presumed to be in the Ramaphosa camp.
However, amid all these uncertainties, there are a few things that we can be sure of at this stage of the race.
Firstly, we can say with certainty that Ramaphosa is doing better than originally anticipated. From all the data that is available, it seems that he will have more than 50% of the branch nominations. Exactly how much more, we will have to wait and see.
Secondly, because of Ramaphosa's performance we can assume that there will be an attempt to either postpone or disrupt the conference and/or to rig the election through all kinds of dirty tricks by the Zuma faction.
Thirdly, we can be reasonably certain that money will be used by both sides to secure votes, but that there will be more money available on the Zuma side than the Ramaphosa side.
The ANC has made a very deliberate attempt to move the decision-making more to the branches as opposed to the provinces and regions. In principle, that is a good thing, but while it has democratised decision-making it has also 'democratised' corruption.
WhatsApp messages last week claimed that NDZ's campaign has run out of money. I don't believe that for a minute. Money is the one thing that neither side will be short of in this election and rumour has it that huge amounts continue to flow to branches and delegates.
Fourthly, as stated last week, a huge number of disputes have been lodged in all the provinces after the branch general meetings. Depending on how these are dealt with, they can have a big impact on the outcome of the election.
Fifthly, there can be no question that the accreditation process at the beginning of the conference will be highly contested and could play a significant, if not determining role, in who becomes the next president.
So yes, Ramaphosa is doing well and if all was done according to the book, statistics would dictate that he would win. But ANC elections have never been won based on spreadsheets and statistics.
Bribery, personal choice, intimidation and false information all impact on the final choice that individual delegates make. Therefore, the side that can "look after" the delegates best between now and the time they step into the booth to vote will ultimately win.
And then, of course, we have to remember that our president is Jacob Zuma. I am amazed that despite all the newspaper exposés, damning books and scandalous public enquiries over the last two years, we so easily believe (based on a leaked branch nomination numbers) that Zuma will allow his camp to be defeated.
Psychologists tell me that those who are inclined to more dubious activities (to put it diplomatically), share three characteristics. They don't allow emotions to distract them, they use their time and energy to work out all possible options and they are willing to go where no ordinary, principled person would go.
Not all of the people in the Zuma camp are criminals, but many have been proven to be and it shows. Those in the Zuma camp have not been spending time and energy sending out excited WhatsApp messages about individual branch results. In fact, they have been fairly quiet and have rarely spoken to the press.
Yet, we can be sure that they have planned for all eventualities (including one where Ramaphosa is ahead in the nominations) and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their grip on power. There is just too much at stake for them.
To mention one example: If the tweeted numbers turn out to be correct and the percentages stay the same Ramaphosa should win. However, if Mkhize, as well as the Mpumalanga "unity" crowd and the leagues throw their support behind NDZ there is less than 15% difference in support between the two.
To "assist" a few hundred delegates to change their minds with a couple of millions of rand is something that those who are determined enough and have access to the necessary resources can easily do.
I really hope I am wrong, but despite all the excitement of the last week, I can't shake this awful feeling that we ain't seen nothing yet.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland. 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.
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