While it is his role as kingmaker at the ANC's watershed conference, which gets underway on Saturday, Mpumalanga premier David "DD" Mabuza has accomplished something else.
He is the runaway favourite to take the role of ANC deputy president. The graphic below reveals that he has won almost double the number of branch nominations than the second nominee Lindiwe Sisulu. This means that he is likely to be ANC deputy president irrespective of who wins the presidential position, unless the party steps in to ensure that the losing presidential candidate becomes the deputy.
President Jacob Zuma is pushing hard for a party constitutional amendment to allow for the ANC to have two deputy presidents. It reportedly does not have significant support in the party's top benches, but it may yet triumph.
"Following all nine ANC provincial general councils, DD Mabuza has been outperforming other candidates with more than 1,500 nominations, compared to around 800 for Lindiwe Sisulu and 350 for Zweli Mkhize, who only received 64 branch nominations for deputy president and six nominations for president in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). DD Mabuza is the clear frontrunner for deputy president, strengthening his king-making role," says Nathan Dufour, senior research associate at the Paternoster Group, which collated the numbers.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's team appears to approve of Mabuza as a deputy to her if she triumphs. But Mabuza's rise is a dilemma for Cyril Ramaphosa, should he win this weekend. Why is this?
Mabuza is part of the "premier league" of premiers whose practices are the antithesis of Ramaphosa's reform agenda. They represent the patronage ANC, which is in thrall to provincial forms of capture.
While Mabuza is not close to the Gupta family, another member of the premier league, the Free State's Ace Magashule, is closely tied to the family.
Unless he wins decisively and convinces either Sisulu or Mkhize to fold their supporters into one, Ramaphosa will have to live with Mabuza as his party deputy president.
This will hamstring Ramaphosa's reform agenda as well as his economic ideas to breathe life into South Africa's economy.
Mabuza has used the year to assiduously work many provinces outside of his home ground of Mpumalanga. His significant nominations in KwaZulu-Natal (the ANC's most powerful province), the Eastern Cape and the North West show just how his team have fanned out to secure his ambitions to get into national politics.