At the same time, deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe's future looks bleaker by the day after the majority of branches replaced him with businessman and ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Cyril Ramaphosa for the position of deputy president.
Out of 4 500 voting delegates headed to Mangaung, Zuma has been nominated by 2 694, which represents 58.9% of the total delegates, including the national and provincial executive committees (PEC) and the leagues. So far, Motlanthe has only been nominated by the ANC Youth League and Gauteng.
This means that even if Motlanthe's provinces – including Limpopo and the Western Cape – were to nominate him, Zuma will still be in the lead.
The nominations process was marred by acts of violence, hooliganism and intimidation as Zuma's and Motlanthe's supporters clashed.
In the North West, ANC provincial secretary Kabelo Mataboge, a well-known Motlanthe campaigner in the province, survived a shooting by unknown gunmen, near his house in Mafikeng.
Mataboge's province could not nominate due to infighting and the ANC provincial members decision to hold parallel nomination conferences.
On Friday, Limpopo's nominations conference collapsed after Zuma's supporters stormed the conference venue and disrupted nominations processes. The Western Cape nomination conference was also delayed due to disruption by unruly ANC members.
Motlanthe's supporters, particularly in the Eastern Cape, cried foul on Saturday after it emerged that the number of members endorsed at plenary (535) differed with the total number of people who cast their vote (602) at the provincial nominations conference, held at the University of Fort Hare in Alice.
An SMS doing the rounds after the conference in the Eastern Cape complained about possible rigging and attempts to sabotage Motlanthe's provinces.
"Comrades, citizens, forces of change, realise the following facts and make your own judgement call following the ANC PGCs in the country. In KZN [KwaZulu-Natal], MP [Mpumalanga], NC [Northern Cape], GP [Gauteng], all was orderly and in peace despite inflation of membership in KZN and BGMs not sitting in Mpumalanga. In the Eastern Cape, credentials were endorsed at plenary was 535 (sic) but total number of voted is 602 without plenary's knowledge and endorsement, let alone fraud in delegation, executed scorched earth policy and sabotage. How can ANC have its national congress at the height of this thuggery and fraud? No credible ANC NEC member from officials downwards should have courage to endorse and recognise all these developments. Only a thug can do that. Our ANC national congress and its outcomes will never be a legitimate one. Our battle is a principled one," the SMS stated.
Manipulation of processes
A high-ranking ANC NEC member told the Mail & Guardian on Saturday afternoon that the outcome of the provincial nomination conferences was a clear manipulation of processes.
"In the Eastern Cape, for instance, all PEC members voted instead of the required number of 45. They wanted to bloat the number. It was a propaganda outcome. They don't want a secret ballot in Mangaung. They don't want provinces against them to nominate Kgalema [Motlanthe]. They know people will be intimidated to vote from the floor in Mangaung. This strategy was used in Mpumalanga and Free State. They patronised everything. But I am confident that Motlanthe will get the required threshold of 25% from the floor in Mangaung in order to challenge Zuma," said the NEC member.
Motlanthe's supporters in the Eastern Cape said they were planning to lodge a formal complaint with Luthuli House about alleged irregularities during the nomination conference.
"There is a special ANC NEC on Monday, which was meant to discuss the organisational and treasurer's reports but we can't ignore the issue of irregularities that happened during the provincial nomination conferences. It is a crucial matter."
However, Zuma's supporters interviewed by the M&G said the president's nomination by the majority of branches was the biggest show yet of confidence in his leadership.
ANC Mpumalanga spokesperson Sibusiso Themba told the M&G: "Branches have spoken. The branches believe that President Zuma is a true leader of the congress movement and will unite the ANC in Mangaung and beyond."
William Bulwane, ANC Free State's provincial spokesperson, said the party's provincial nominations conference proceeded smoothly and that there were no reported incidents of violence or hooliganism.
"The conference went very well. I am happy about the outcome, even the choice of leadership. As the province we wish to congratulate our members for the high discipline shown at the conference and we wish they should display the same discipline at the national conference. As we move forward towards Mangaung national conference we will sell our product and others will also sell theirs. To us, finally, we must come up with one product. The product we will all respect and support," said Bulwane.
Depending on the outcome of the Constitutional Court case in which six ANC members file a court interdict protest the validity of the ANC provincial conference in June, Free State might be forced to miss the conference.
The six ANC members are asking the courts to nullify and dissolve the current PEC, led by Free State Premier Ace Magashule.
A pro-Zuma Cabinet minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "According to branches, President Zuma has done very well during his first term in office. Under his leadership, the government has come up with the National Development Plan and the department of performance, monitoring and evaluation. He has also prioritised rural development, and Aids statistics show the pandemic is under control and people who are infected have access to anti-retroviral treatment. He has also announced a massive infrastructure programme, which will create jobs and grow the economy. He deserves a second term."