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SA holds its breath as ANC chooses new leadership

Delegates started voting on Sunday night in a closely fought contest between presidential contenders Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

A delegate during the nominations process at the ANC's national conference on 17 December 2017. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa will be holding its breath as the African National Congress (ANC) chooses a new leadership at Nasrec, Soweto on Monday.

Delegates started voting on Sunday night in a closely fought contest between presidential contenders Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Some were expected only to cast their ballots this morning, with the outcome only expected to be announced later today.

A drama-filled nominations process saw weaker candidates withdraw, clearing the way for a head to head battle between the Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma camps.

THE NUMBERS

Ace Magashule and Senzo Mchunu are contesting for the position of secretary-general.

The nomination for the position of deputy secretary general is between Zingiswa Losi and Jesse Duarte.

And Paul Mashatile and Maite Nkoana-Mashabane have both been nominated for the position of treasurer-general.

Several ANC leaders have started to make their votes public, with the party's chief whip and spokesperson backing Cyril Ramaphosa and Fikile Mbalula tweeting that he voted for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

After several hour delays, voting finally got underway after midnight in a closely fought contest between Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma.

Ramaphosa is in the lead with 1,469 branch nominations, while Dlamini Zuma is on 1,094.

Whoever emerges as the leader of the 105-year-old liberation movement is likely to become the country's next president after elections in 2019.

After another day of delays the nominations were finally announced.

“Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa nominated by 1,469 branches across six provinces, and the comrade has accepted the nomination. Then we have comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who has been nominated by 1,094 branches across six provinces. The comrade has also accepted the nominations.”

And with that, Ramaphosa officially was in the lead with 375 branch nominations.

But one of the biggest surprises was when Zweli Mkhize, who had initially accepted nomination for the position of deputy president, pulled out.

“I want to acknowledge all the comrades and all the work that was done. But I also want to say that I’ve engaged with a number of comrades here and I’d like to contribute and strengthen unity within that organisation. At that level, I’d like to withdraw from the nominations. Thank you, comrades.”

This means the battle for the second in command is now between Mpumalanga chair David Mabuza who received 1,128 branch nominations, and Lindiwe Sisulu who is sitting at 619.

WATCH: Mkhize withdraws as Ramaphosa, Dlamini Zuma nominated for president

There are 4,776 delegates eligible to vote and the magic number for victory is 2,389.

But that’s only part of the story.

On paper, Ramaphosa appears to have the edge but that depends on whether delegates vote as their branches mandated them to do, or fall prey to bribes, the promise of jobs or other inducements to switch allegiance.

Both sides suffered in the run-up to this crucial poll, with credential checks and court cases knocking down the number of potential votes for both sides, though with more impact on Dlamini Zuma’s tally than Ramaphosa’s.

There’s also uncertainty about which way about 450 voters could cast their vote, a handy 10% that could mean the decisive victory that both sides are vying for.

Meanwhile, political analyst Mcebisi Mdletyana says: “Cyril is credible when he says we’re going to renew ourselves, we’re going to do things differently.”

And analyst, Vukani Mde, has reminded the public and the ANC that the conference is also about deliberating on policies.

“It’s hard to know and to decide how seriously you should take the policy deliberations because the ANC has proven time and time again that it doesn’t take them seriously itself.

“And since at least the times of Thabo Mbeki, state policy makers have tended to lead ANC policy.”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)