With the race for the top job in the ANC running neck and neck between Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC MP Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, attention is now turning to the Big Ds -- the delegates who will make the final votes.
Will they vote as their branches delegated them to or will they change course on the conference floor as they are permitted to do by the ANC constitution?
This makes the outcome of the conference even more difficult to predict.
The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that support for presidential frontrunners Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma appears almost even.
It reported that Dlamini-Zuma so far appears to have the lead in the Free State, North West and KwaZulu-Natal, while Ramaphosa holds the majority in the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, the paper reported.
Political analyst Theo Venter said once at the conference, it is generally expected that voting delegates will cast their ballot in accordance with their branches, but they are not obliged to do so.
"There is always a percentage of "liegstem", or lying votes, and this is applicable to both Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa's camps. This will be dependent on the measure of pressure from branches, intimidation and who is aligned to who. But to a large measure, votes should be in accordance with branch nominations," Venter said.
"There is a stronger sense of [the reality facing the party] in the branch and delegate levels in the ANC and this will play on the conscience of many delegates... But branch nominations now give us a broad political lay of the land."
Venter speculated that the full complement of conference attendees from the branches (which make up 90 percent of the voting delegation) will not turn up due to some regions not completing their BGMs. He questioned whether the percentage of delegates from the ANC's leagues (which make up the remaining 10 percent of voters) will then increase.
"The ANC was vague when they said 10 percent of the total delegates would be from the leagues. Do they mean 10 percent of the total expected number of delegates or 10 percent of the total branch delegates who arrive on the day? An increase or decrease in the number of league voters, most of whom support Dlamini-Zuma, will impact the conference for both camps greatly," Venter said.
But ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa told HuffPost SA that the numbers of voting delegates represented from the leagues are fixed.
"It is not possible [that the number will change]," Kodwa said.
He said he could not comment on the size of delegations from various regions because provincial executive committees had not yet sent final reports to the ANC's headquarters.
Political expert Susan Booysen said, in the past, there was a culture of voting delegates photographing their ballots before submitting.
"There is a possibility that, with the highly politicised and volatile political environment, there may be more of a descent of delegates deviating from officially voting in accordance with delegated branch nominations and going against the expectations... But generally, bloc and slate voting are approximately the same as what provinces and branches dictate," Booysen said.Suggest a correction