There will be many game changers at the ANC's 54th national conference at Nasrec this weekend, but few will be as active in mobilising support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as Pravin Gordhan.
The former minister of finance has become a rallying point for those opposing state capture and the large-scale looting of the state. His second tenure as finance minister, to the day, started Thursday two years ago, after the aborted appointment of Des van Rooyen. Gordhan fought an uphill battle from the very beginning, with President Jacob Zuma not hiding the fact that Gordhan as minister of finance wasn't his first choice.
When Gordhan was unceremoniously dumped as minister of finance in favour of Malusi Gigaba –– a Gupta-friendly minister –– he quickly slipped back into the role of organiser, telling a packed Johannesburg City Hall the day after his dismissal that ANC members at grassroots level need to organise themselves and that the ANC needed to be reclaimed.
Gordhan –– a pharmacist by trade, who was detained and beaten during apartheid –– first rose to prominence as a community organiser in the erstwhile Natal in the 1970s after joining the liberation movement. He was part of the secretariat at Codesa and was deployed to parliament after 1994. He was recruited to become the first SARS commissioner, which he built and led from 1999 to 2009. He was minister of finance between 2009 and 2014, and again from 2015 to last year.
He has also proven to be a thorn in the side of every state-owned enterprise that has appeared in front of the portfolio committee on public enterprises ever since his return to parliament as an ordinary MP, questioning expenditure, governance and appointments of former cabinet colleagues.
But Gordhan, commanding the loyalty of a number of former senior bureaucrats and ANC loyalists, has also been active in the background, mobilising support and preparing for a post-Zuma era. He is acutely aware that this weekend's conference isn't only important for the ANC and its future, but that the country is holding its breath.
Gordhan has been organising in support of Ramaphosa, but also preparing the ground for sweeping changes should his man win. He'll be somebody to watch this weekend.