Pravin for president?
In the wake of the State of Capture report, the difficulty for many people in the ANC will be how to restore the confidence its supporters once had in the party.
Although the question of factions and balance of forces will determine who wins the top seat at the party’s national elective conference in December 2017, sober minds will look towards 2019, and the general election that takes place that year.
This year’s municipal elections demonstrated that the people will only put up with so much from the party – and they’ve had to put up with a lot recently.
The party needs to counterattack strongly and demonstrate that it has read the shifting politics in the country and will respond suitably.
How can the ANC restore this trust? Who has the correct struggle credentials, public service record, broad public support and has become the face of the fight against state capture and for good governance? Who was called on in a time of crisis when President Jacob Zuma tried to appoint a lackey as finance minister, immediately setting off a financially disastrous chain reaction?
For most people, it would be a handicap, but because Pravin Gordhan is not tied to a particular ANC constituency, or faction, it could be a boon if he ran as a “fresh-start” candidate. He is not necessarily beholden to any party power-brokers.
By sitting quietly on his hands as the government fell about around him, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote himself out of contention for Honest Candidate.
He is, after all, Zuma’s deputy. There’s also the small matter of Marikana, which simply refuses to die down.
He cannot credibly mount a challenge to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (or whoever the current dominant faction eventually nominates) on the basis of clean governance or a fresh start.
At the fall of apartheid, it was far from settled that Nelson Mandela would become the first democratically elected leader of South Africa, with Thabo Mbeki as his deputy.
The party had to manage competing interests – from Robben Island alumni, the unions and anti-apartheid movements that sprang up after the party was banned, Umkhonto weSizwe leaders and the party in exile.
A reason why Madiba emerged as the leader to take the party forward was his broad public appeal.
Of course, it matters that Gordhan doesn’t have a constituency, but people in the Gauteng ANC could start to pull one together for him.
It would be bloody hard work, but it could be done. He would also need to convince a fair portion of the ANC that the problems they face are bigger than Zuma, when the temptation to be reductive will be enormous.
Most difficult of all will be to convince all and sundry in the ANC that their focus should be on the wishes of the public, not intraparty intrigue.
For an organisation that has spent the past 10 years with its eyes focused squarely on its own navel, that change of perspective may prove to be too traumatic to countenance.