11/10/2017 13:03 BST | Updated 11/10/2017 13:47 BST

6 Analysts Say Cyril Ramaphosa Is Leading The ANC Race. Could They Be Wrong?

A Citibank economist has started a monthly poll to predict who is ahead.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at an ANC election rally in Port Elizabeth in April 2016.
HuffPost SA

A monthly survey of eight political analysts for Citibank on who will win the African National Congress (ANC) race for the party presidency has Cyril Ramaphosa in pole position, with six people saying he will be victor. Are they right or are they reflecting an echo chamber of elites?

The majority of analysts did not correctly predict President Jacob Zuma's win over former president Thabo Mbeki at the party's Polokwane national conference in 2007. Similarly, leading American pundits got wrong United States President Donald Trump's triumph in the race for the White House.

Citibank economist Gina Schoeman has started a monthly poll of eight analysts to predict who is leading the seven-candidate race for the ANC presidency.

The analysts have indicated they think it is a two-horse race between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Of the eight analysts, six have Ramaphosa leading with two casting their votes for Dlamini-Zuma.

The analysts have indicated they think it is a two-horse race between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

The two analysts who think the ANC is going to tip its hat at a first woman president are University of the Witwatersrand vice-chancellor Adam Habib and leading political analyst Ralph Mathekga. A campaigner for Dlamini-Zuma says the six pundits are wrong. "It's early days and the process of party branches nominating is just starting," says the strategist.

The strategist adds that Dlamini-Zuma is not a media darling and that very few of her events get coverage. Ultimately, this is a party race and the structures of the ANC make the decision, so Dlamini-Zuma is showing ample love to ANC branches, regional and district structures. She does up to five party engagements a day on Saturdays and Sundays.

The campaigner adds that Dlamini-Zuma has chosen not to campaign negatively and, as a result, her messages are not as media-resonant as those of other candidates. She is focusing on grassroots issues such as economic transformation, skills development, land reform and agricultural expansion.

This is not as sexy as being anti-corruption or anti-state capture. "I think the media is underestimating her impact," says the Dlamini-Zuma aide.

In the Ramaphosa camp, a representative says he thinks the survey of analysts is accurate, but is cautious to emphasise that a true picture will only emerge by the middle of November, when all branch nominations for the ANC presidency are in.

Over the weekend, the ANC released its list of numbers in each provincial delegation to the December national conference and this seemed to favour Dlamini-Zuma.

KwaZulu-Natal is still the ANC's king (or queen) maker province and Dlamini-Zuma is strong on her home turf.

In addition, Mpumalanga premier and provincial ANC chair David Mabuza has boosted ANC numbers to stratospheric levels, making him a key powerbroker.

Mabuza has ambitions to be in the presidency and he is said to favour aligning with Dlamini-Zuma, which means the delegate numbers swung into her corner.

But Ramaphosa's strategist says there are no givens in any province because they are unlikely to vote as blocs. Ramaphosa has strong support in KwaZulu-Natal because sidelined former premier Senzo Mchunu has taken a position in the deputy president's tent.

The ANC race is tough to call because it has almost everything to do with the country, given the party's power and representation, but almost nothing to do with its people, because the 5,000-odd delegates to the conference make the decision.

Declaration: Ferial Haffajee is one of the analysts.