With only hours left before Mangaung's showdown, Motlanthe finally comes out of the closet!

Insiders said on Wednesday that Motlanthe had agreed to stand against Zuma – and had told the ANC’s electoral commission so. But they made it clear he would make no public announcement as, according to ANC rules, this would be for the commission to announce.

ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa confirmed on Wednesday that he would stand for election as deputy ANC president against the Zuma slate’s Cyril Ramaphosa, while Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said he would accept nomination as secretary-general, against Gwede Mantashe.

While lobbyists pushing for leadership change are adamant Motlanthe has a chance of securing enough votes to topple Zuma, the numbers are stacked against him.

Political analysts on Wednesday dismissed any possibility of Motlanthe winning a contest against Zuma.

Professor Steven Friedman, director at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said: “(Motlanthe) would rather go out as contesting the presidency. He believes there is a principle that if people nominate their candidate, they ought to have him stand.”

Friedman said Motlanthe was prepared not to occupy one of the ANC’s top six positions until the party’s next elective conference in five years’ time.

Motlanthe’s candidacy showed that behind-the-scenes attempts to secure a deal in which Motlanthe would stand as deputy president on a Zuma slate had failed.

Such a deal would have prevented battles over credentials at Mangaung after the fraught provincial nominations process saw claims of vote-rigging and unfairness.

Friedman said that Motlanthe, by agreeing to another term as Zuma’s deputy in the ANC, would have found himself restricted and not allowed to do the things he would want to do.

However, Friedman added: “(Motlanthe’s candidacy) won’t effect the outcome. Zuma is going to win comfortably. There’s no doubt about it.”

Independent analyst and CNBC Africa anchor Karima Brown agreed that, based on the number of branch nominations, Zuma had the advantage over Motlanthe.

In the event that Motlanthe lost the race for the presidency he could, if he chose to, enter the race against Cyril Ramaphosa for deputy president, as he had been nominated for this position by the Zuma-supporting Northern Cape.

Ramaphosa, however, had the majority of provincial and branch nominations, making it probable that Motlanthe would lose that contest as well. “Then Mr Motlanthe would exit the top six, where he has served for the last 15 years,” Brown said.

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