Is ABZ brigade just hot air?
Are we guilty of misreading the trends within the ANC and its alliance partners ahead of the Mangaung elective conference?
The dominant narrative - propagated mainly by political journalists and analysts - is that we are headed for a titanic tug-of-war between President Jacob Zuma's supporters and those who want him voted out as ANC leader.
As a political editor and columnist, I would say we have had good reason to believe so. That there are senior ANC members campaigning against Zuma's bid for a second term is a reality that can no longer be denied.
In provinces such as Limpopo, Eastern Cape and parts of Gauteng, the so-called Anyone But Zuma coalition dominates party structures.
Important ANC components, such as its youth league, have not hidden the fact that they want Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma by December. Because of ANC rules that forbid party members from discussing leadership succession before the official opening of the process on October 1, many of Zuma's opponents have tended to speak to the media off the record, albeit very vocally.
But are we, as the media, over-selling this grouping and, in the process, missing an important trend within the ruling alliance?
Many of us in the commentariat assumed that 2012 would be along the same lines as 2007, when every alliance conference leading up to Polokwane was characterised by fierce contests between those who wanted change and those opposed to it. But, though there has been intense contestation at the regional and provincial levels, the situation has tended to be different at national conferences.
The run-up to Polokwane, where Zuma defeated President Thabo Mbeki, was marked by serious leadership battles within the alliance partners - the SA Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu.
At both the Cosatu and the Communist Party congresses, Mbeki supporters were removed from leadership posts and replaced by people who backed Zuma.
This year, however, the trend has been different. At the Communist Party congress in July, all its top leaders were re-elected unopposed, despite claims by Zuma detractors that there would be a contest.
This trend continued yesterday, when Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president, Sidumo Dlamini were returned to office unopposed despite attempts by factions within the federation to remove them.
Dlamini is said to be backing Zuma whereas Vavi wants a leadership change. The National Union of Metalworkers and other Cosatu affiliates have vocally opposed Dlamini but failed to put up a candidate to challenge him on election day.
Similarly, the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) could not find another affiliate supportive of its bid to remove Vavi.
As was the case with the Communist Party congress, the Cosatu gathering put unity ahead of any other political consideration.
When Popcru tried to have the election process re-opened after electoral officials had announced that none of the top posts would be contested, the union was shot down, even by affiliates unhappy with Vavi.
What are the chances of this trend continuing in December at the ANC conference? Can we really rule out the possibility that Zuma, Motlanthe and other top ANC officials will be returned to their posts unopposed?
I am not suggesting that, come October 1, Zuma will be the sole nominee for the ANC presidency.
But will any other names on the nomination list have enough branch backing to qualify as a candidate at the congress?
The Anyone But Zuma coalition, or "Forces of Change" grouping, want us to believe that they would.
Perhaps they are right. But they have yet to demonstrate to us, by winning a major conference, that they have the electoral muscle they claim.
Where they have scored victories, as at the recent OR Tambo ANC regional conference, the victories have been narrow. This does not mean that we should underestimate their power.
But the greatest lesson for the commentariat from yesterday's Cosatu congress is that we should guard against assuming that, just because one group is making a lot of noise about change, it has the necessary support from conference delegates to effect that change.