20/11/2017 05:52 SAST | Updated 20/11/2017 05:54 SAST

Is David Mabuza Really In Control Of Mpumalanga's Vote?

Weekend Rallies by CR17 and NDZ camps saw thousands of supporters from various regions attending each event, indicating that not everyone may agree with Mabuza's way.

Theana Breugem - Netwerk24
David Mabuza.

ANC Mpumalanga boss David Mabuza has been an enigma in the party's presidential race, playing a political peek-a-boo with the frontrunners and dangling his political influence over branches in the province as bait to both camps.

His province forms the second largest voting bloc in the ANC with 736 delegates from its branches attending the party's national conference in December -- and because of Mabuza's political longevity as premier (a position he has held since 2009) and the influence he holds over his branches, it was thought that securing his support would mean bagging a large majority of the Mpumalanga delegation.

But the weekend may tell a different story.

Both presidential frontrunners, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, took their campaigns to the province on Saturday, their support structures hosting them at separate rallies in Nelspruit and KwaMhlanga. The eyes of the media were on both events, not for the candidates themselves, but for who attended, and equally as important, who did not.

Mabuza -- who has been playing his cards close to his chest, preaching unity rather than naming his preferred presidential candidate -- was a no-show at both events. But thousands of supporters from the province's various regions did show up to each rally, indicating that Mabuza may not have as tight a grip on the province as previously thought.

Both Ramaphosa's and Dlamini-Zuma's events were somewhat equally attended -- the stadiums they chose were packed to capacity.

At the Nelspruit rugby stadium, where Ramaphosa was speaking at the South African Communist Party's Red October Rally, supporters from various regions were joined by provincial ANC Women's League members. Leaders from provincial branches of Cosatu and the SACP were also present.

It is believed that supporters from some regions who were driven in for the event were threatened en route, their busses halted and members intimidated.

Mabuza's name was not mentioned during the proceedings.

At the Solomon Mahlangu Stadium, where Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at the ANCWL's Molo Makhelwane rally, some provincial ANC leaders were present among thousands of the party's women's and youth league members. There was also a significant presence of supporters from various regions.

News24 reported that Mabuza was praised numerously throughout the event -- Dlamini-Zuma has attempted to woo him over to her side with the ANCWL nominating him as her deputy president.

Also of significance is that Mabuza's deputy, Violet Siwela, and other members of the provincial executive committee attended Dlamini-Zuma's rally.

"When you see me, you see DD [Mabuza]," Siwela reportedly told News24 at the event.

Depending on which region you speak to (HuffPost SA spoke to three), leaders will say that either Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma is leading the race.

Perhaps Mabuza then is not as all-powerful in Mpumalanga as he would have hoped to be.

Perhaps Ramaphosa knew this when he excluded him from his slate.

The question then is, has Mabuza's influence in the province been amplified to secure his place in the ANC's top six, to which Ramaphosa has taken heed? Or has Dlamini-Zuma claimed the golden ticket to Mpumalanga with her sweet offer of deputy?

We will find out in four weeks.