The confusion around the high number of ANC presidential candidates could clear as the party’s national conference draws closer.
Supporters of the main candidates, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, believe other contenders will drop out closer to the all-important indaba.
But none of them would say whether the other candidates would simply stop campaigning, or ask their followers to vote for either Dlamini-Zuma or Ramaphosa.
Besides Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa, others in the running are Lindiwe Sisulu, Zweli Mkhize, Baleka Mbete, Jeff Radebe and Mathews Phosa.
They all continue to intensify their campaigns, with none indicating that they will give up any time soon. Recent statements from some of the candidates have added to the confusion.
Sisulu lambasted party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe for suggesting that Dlamini-Zuma should become Ramaphosa’s deputy.
In fact, Sisulu rebuked Mantashe to the extent of questioning his struggle credentials, apparently for favouring Dlamini-Zuma at her expense.
Recently, a member of the Dlamini-Zuma campaign team, Carl Niehaus, said they were not concerned about the campaigns of other candidates, only their own.
But Niehaus did not dispute the fact that some candidates might join their campaign.
A source close to the Ramaphosa camp was clear that some of the other candidates might drop out of contention. “I don’t think you will have seven names,” he said.
“I think the field will clear out, with maybe three candidates to remain in the race in December.”
Sisulu is not the first to dispute the suggestion that Ramaphosa, as party deputy president, should automatically become president.
Dlamini-Zuma also rejected this view and at the weekend, Mkhize entered the fray, saying Ramaphosa would have to put his name forward for nomination just like every other candidate.
One thing is clear, the ANC is busy experimenting with democracy after spending nearly 70 years of leadership by arrangement, with the understanding that the deputy president takes over.
This was introduced in 1949. Political analyst Prof Steven Friedman said Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa and Mkhize would remain in the running for top spot until the bitter end.
Candidates must be nominated by a province and none of the other contenders were likely to be nominated, suggested Friedman. “Mkhize could be nominated by Mpumalanga,” Friedman said.
The analyst said this was the first ANC election in which candidates have not been prevented from campaigning. “It signals a shift by the ANC to fully competitive elections,” Friedman added. –firstname.lastname@example.org