The outcome of court proceedings currently underway in KwaZulu-Natal may be the biggest game changer in the presidential race, with President Jacob Zuma's clutch on the party's stronghold slowly slipping as the province's structures exchange blows amongst themselves.
The province is a political kingmaker in the ANC and has long been used as a siege weapon in Zuma's arsenal to demolish his opponents in his rise to, and survival as, president of the ANC.
But his fort is now in shambles as "rebels" in the party stand to overthrow the president's current support monopoly.
Currently, Zuma frontman Sihle Zikalala stands at the helm of the ANC in the province. Zikalala and his comrades, like KZN ANC secretary Super Zuma, are staunch and unwavering Zuma supporters and have thrown their weight behind Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the country's next leader.
But KZN's veteran leaders, who were ousted in the 2015 provincial elective conference, and who still enjoy favour in many regions, are fighting to overthrow the Zuma camp.
The Cyril Ramaphosa allies, led by former KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu, have instituted court proceedings to have the results of the conference declared null and void. Citing procedural flaws, they believe the election was rigged.
One of these alleged anomalies includes the tweeting of the results by an official ANC account while voting was still under way.
Battle commences this week
The battle will continue in the Pietermaritzburg High Court throughout the week, and the result of such could be one of the major influencing factors in the outcome of the ANC national conference in December.
During the ANC's national general council in 2015, it was revealed that more than 150,000 of the 769,870 ANC members came from KZN. This translates to about 21 percent of the entire party constituency.
Of the 2500 voting branch delegates from all nine provinces, 513 come from KZN alone.
Using 2012's Mangaung conference as an additional guideline, of the total 4500 voting delegates, 974 were from KZN. That equates to 21.6 percent.
Putting that number into perspective, KZN had more voting delegates than the Free State, the North West, the Western Cape and the Northern Cape combined.
To be elected as president, a candidate would have to acquire 50 percent of the total vote plus one.
'KZN is Zuma's main stake in keeping that control'
Political expert Theo Venter said Zuma has previously enjoyed the support from a monopoly of that 21.6 percent.
"Zuma has enjoyed a monopoly of support from KZN. If he has the entire support of KZN, he would previously only have to get just five or six percent from the North West and from the Free State and small portions from the other provinces to attain a majority vote," Venter said.
"KZN is his main stake in keeping that control. But that monopoly is now broken apart by division and if Mchunu wins this case, I think it will be the end of Zuma and any of his proposed successors. The falling apart of KZN's structures will be the biggest game changer in the presidential race."
Under KZN, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo take silver and bronze for the amount of voting delegates -- judging by Mangaung -- at 676 and 574 respectively.
The Eastern Cape is divided between Ramaphosa, Dlamini-Zuma and ANC Treasurer General, Zweli Mkhize. And Limpopo is also at loggerheads between the two frontrunners.
Gauteng has come out in support of Ramaphosa and Mpumalanga remains at odds.
But for Dlamini-Zuma and the Zuma camp, provinces could go either way so long as KZN comes to their support in its entirety in December. If we were back in 2012, that would not have been something to question.
But five years later, the province is split down the middle and the outcome of the court case will tip the balance of forces to one of either of the two sides.
If Mchunu and his "rebel" group come out victorious, Zikalala's executive committee will surely be dissolved before December. But that doesn't mean there will be time for another committee to be elected.
It will, however, allow Mchunu to more effectively push the Ramaphosa campaign into unchartered Zuma territory, without ramifications from Zikalala and his band.Suggest a correction