If the game of numbers is anything to go by, any presidential candidates will be unwise to underestimate the delegations of small provinces in their quest for the top spot at the ANC elective national conference.
The Northern Cape, which supports Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Jacob Zuma as ANC president, is hard at work preparing for the conference.
The province will dispatch 197 delegates, which is not bad considering that, for the first time, the province beat the almost leaderless Western Cape at the bottom.
But in the game of numbers where the big provinces have divided loyalties between the leading candidates, the provinces with small numbers could be kingmakers.
Of the top three provinces, KwaZulu-Natal has the largest number of delegates with 870. Mpumalanga has 736, followed by Eastern Cape with 648 – all divided between Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa.
The small provinces would be crucial to tilt the scales in favour of either of the two.
If Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma are guaranteed at least 50 of votes each from KZN, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape, the tally of votes from Northern Cape (197), Western Cape (182), Free State (409), North West (538), Gauteng (508) and Limpopo (643) would play a significant role to give one of them the victory.
Dlamini-Zuma appears to have the support of the ANC women’s and youth leagues.
Ramaphosa must ensure he gets as many votes possible from the small provinces to add to his share.
The majority of political analysts victory could go either way between Ramaphosa and Dlamini-Zuma. But according to analyst Sipho Seepe, Dlamini-Zuma will walk home with the prize.
If KZN, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and the two leagues vote as loyal Zuma sycophants, they would give Dlamini-Zuma a good chance.
But Ramaphosa has made huge inroads in the Zuma-supporting provinces and has managed to divide the leagues. Add to this the support from Cosatu and the SA Communist Party and he, too, stands a good chance.
With 4 723 delegates, excluding the leagues, it remains to be seen who will win in December.
Against this backdrop, neither Dlamini-Zuma nor Ramaphosa dare underestimate a province such as Northern Cape.
Led by provincial chairperson Zamani Saul, the province may be small but is very influential at conferences.
It proposed the restructuring of the ANC national executive committee officer-bearers, which would result in two deputy secretary-general positions.
Provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga said the province would once more make its presence felt with qualitative input on policy matters. – firstname.lastname@example.org