It started at lunch. Supporters of ANC presidential candidate Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma gathered on a field adjacent to the party's conference venue.
The purpose: to establish an impi for a political war: by all accounts, the race between her and Cyril Ramaphosa is running neck and neck. They planned a rally where the troops surged forward to the front of the plenary hall as the conference started. Thousands rose -- about half the hall of just over 5,000.
In the middle of the throng, a clear script was clear. Delegates from Dlamini-Zuma's stronghold provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the Free State and North West pointed their badges at the candidate whom sat dispassionately at the front. "We're voting for you," the lifted badges said.
Then, the raised hands: "We are rising for you." Then, tap your watch: "It's time for Nkosazana."
The term "monopoly" rings through the rally -- time to end "white monopoly capital".
The so-called #NDZ17 team had won the first round: to establish symbol, song and culture of this conference. It's an indicator, but not an outcome.
Does voice equal votes?
The fight to the finishing line between Dlamini-Zuma and Ramaphosa delayed the start of the ANC's eagerly awaited national elective conference.
Battles abound about the credentials of delegates, because every vote counts. Dlamini-Zuma's team has the biggest share of voice and is more organised to turn the tide in her favour. Ramaphosa has more votes secured, says his team, but it feels like they do not have a final battle strategy. Perhaps he thought he didn't need one.
Dlamini-Zuma's strategists insist she has a 300 delegate lead over her formidable competitor. The jury is out and it's a question of whether Big Voice equals Big Vote.