ANC presidential hopefuls Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ANA
Johannesburg - Psychological warfare erupted in the ANC after the conclusion of branch and provincial meetings showed front-runners Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa both failed to secure a decisive lead.

Lobbying towards the party’s crucial elective conference entered a new, more intense stage on Tuesday after Ramaphosa took the lead in the race, bagging the majority of branch nominations.

Calculation of the consolidated figures of all the nominations from the nine provinces showed that Ramaphosa had a lead of 530 branch nominations after receiving a total of 1860 nominations from Limpopo, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Northern Cape.

Dlamini Zuma, for her part, received 1330 from the party’s biggest and second-biggest provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga, and from Free State and North West.

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Ramaphosa leads, for now, 10 days before the conference to be held at Nasrec, south of Joburg.

But there are permutations, and the last lap of the race could prove to be tricky, considering the party’s stated problems, such as dirty money used for votes, and manipulation and intimidation of members.

In terms of ANC processes, branch nominations offer only a window into the preliminary support that a candidate has. The real numbers are with the number of voting delegates who will be present at the conference.

While a branch can make one nomination for a candidate, it is, in terms of the ANC constitution, also allowed to send more than one delegate, depending on its size.

On Tuesday, Dlamini Zuma supporters pinned their hopes on the big branches coming from the large provinces that nominated her, while Ramaphosa’s supporters were lobbying to increase his lead over the former AU Commission chairperson.

One of Dlamini Zuma’s chief campaigners, Carl Niehaus, said they were not surprised at the outcomes of nominations, as the contest was tight.

“We do not have any reason to be disappointed with the results. We will continue to do our work to ensure we win the conference,” Niehaus said.

He said Dlamini Zuma’s lobbyists were confident that KZN and Mpumalanga would tilt the scale in their favour when the counting of votes by delegates takes place.

“In the areas where we received support there are big branches, so we are confident that the number of delegates who will go to the conference is larger than the number of nominations.

“Our main preoccupation now is counting the actual number of delegates and intensifying our lobbying,” Niehaus said.

An ANC NEC member and one of Ramaphosa’s chief lobbyists, Mathole Motshekga, said they were elated that the former trade unionist was clearly in the lead after branch endorsements.

“We’re happy now because branch members of the ANC have expressed themselves. They are the ones who must be allowed to tell us where they want their organisation to go. We must all abide by the outcome of this upcoming conference, and any bona fide members of the ANC will respect the will of the majority and respect both the ANC and South Africans,” Motshekga said.

According to rule 10 of the ANC, a branch is entitled to one delegate if its membership reaches 100, and an additional delegate if its membership reaches 250.

Last month, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe warned, however, that provinces would be blocked from bloating their delegates tally through rule 10.

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Mantashe said the same rule dictated that, when bringing delegates to the conference, provinces must not exceed the percentages given to them in terms of their size.

“There is another balancing clause of the constitution which talks to the allocation of delegates proportionately to the membership of the province,” Mantashe said.

In terms of delegation, KwaZulu-Natal will take the largest share, followed by Mpumalanga, at 18% and 16% respectively.

The Eastern Cape and Limpopo will be allowed to bring 14% each, while Gauteng and North West have been allocated 11% each.

Free State will bring 9%, while the Western Cape and Northern Cape have been allocated 4% each.

The numbers could be less than the allocated percentage, depending on each province's ability to ensure that all branches in good standing successfully held their branch nomination meetings, including the disputed ones.

Mantashe said the rules in the constitution would curb provinces from bringing more numbers than allowed.

“That percentage in terms of proportionate membership will not allow people to bloat their delegation,” he stressed.

In terms of proportional allocation, provinces that backed Dlamini Zuma were entitled to 54% of the delegation to the conference collectively, while the provinces that backed Ramaphosa stood at 47%.

ANC spokesperson Khusela Sangoni said the allocation was not an exact science but a guideline of how much each province was entitled to.

“This is not the exact size but is the guideline that

is given by the national executive. A maximum of 90% is given to branches,” Sangoni said.

The remaining 10% would be dedicated to leagues (60 delegates each), the national executive committee (86 delegates) and provincial executive committees (27 members).

The scramble was now on for the 223 branches in Mpumalanga who protested by abstaining from endorsing either Dlamini Zuma or Ramaphosa, saying they wanted “Unity”.

Susan Booysen, a professor at Wits University's School of Governance, said the 223 votes were potentially very important in the fiercely contested presidential race, but she struggled to see how Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza would have a leg to stand on.

“While calling for unity is noble and there are good sentiments that he could share, it is quite common for there to be factions in party politics,” Booysen noted.

She said that if the 223 branches wrote “Unity” on their ballot papers, “then they are automatically saying they will follow Mabuza and go with what he is saying”. – Additional reporting by Kailene Pillay

Political Bureau