The reason was simple: Dlamini Zuma had support where it counted the most - and that was at the branch level of the ruling party.
However, the events of this weekend now cast doubt on what was accepted as a truism and make one thing clear: Cyril Ramaphosa is a strong contender for the party’s top position, and the race is far from over.
In recent years, there have been several attempts to tarnish Ramaphosa’s image. But, as December approaches, the attempts have become more personal. Perhaps more desperate.
Only a few weeks ago, there were allegations he beat up his ex-wife Hope. She promptly went public to deny the allegations and sing his praises.
This weekend came allegations that Ramaphosa cheated on his wife with at least eight women. The evidence was supposedly e-mails between Ramaphosa and the women.
However, there is much about the e-mails we do not know. This includes who hacked Ramaphosa’s e-mail account and whether they altered the correspondence before it went public.
Ramaphosa has acknowledged having an affair with one of the eight women. According to him, it ended about eight years ago and he had dealt with the matter with his wife.
However, the leaked e-mails raise two important issues that go beyond the battle for the leadership of the ruling party.
The first is the role our intelligence agencies play in politics.
The second has to do with privacy, more especially when it concerns a public figure like the deputy president of our country.
Remember, infidelity is not a crime. As Ramaphosa himself pointed out, no law has been broken.
But he has clearly made someone or some people very worried. It is the only plausible reason for them to go to such lengths to undermine him.
Some were already writing Ramaphosa’s death knell this weekend. Andile Mngxitama predicted: “The buffalo is going down!” in reference to Ramaphosa.
However, Ramaphosa made it clear that he would not be deterred. Those who have taken a stand against him should take note because the most dangerous animal in the world is a wounded buffalo.