You cannot write off President Jacob Zuma in the race for the ANC presidency.
Zuma is the consummate politician and behind-the-scenes operator and manipulator who has been crafting his particular personal brand for decades.
His survival strategy is clear: get his former wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, into a position where she can step up as his successor.
In the process, so this theory goes, he may be able to avoid prosecution for alleged corruption once Dlamini-Zuma is in charge in the Union Buildings, because she would have the power to grant him amnesty for alleged past crimes.
And he will still have huge influence, even if he is not occupying the actual position of president.
His camp, the NDZ17 campaign faction, has identified Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as the biggest threat to Zuma’s continuing reign.
Hence, the perfectly timed release of e-mails that purported to show that Ramaphosa was having affairs with younger women and acting like a “sugar daddy”.
Ramaphosa denounced the revelations as an attempt to smear him using state intelligence agencies … although he did admit to having had an affair eight years ago and to be reconciled with his wife.
That event, if it was an attempt to bring down Ramaphosa, appears to have failed dismally, with the overwhelming view of informed people being that the Zuma camp was behind it.
The origin of the information and the timing of its release attracted more media attention than the actual allegations themselves.
That is apparently why, as we reported on Monday, the new plan by the Zuma faction is to give Dlamini-Zuma a Cabinet post as a precursor to ousting Ramaphosa entirely.
That is a worrying development because it will lead to a serious split in the ANC and possible violence.
We need calm heads and a real commitment to democracy if we are going to come through this.