The former "brown envelope" premier, Ebrahim Rasool, will head the ANC's election campaign in the Western Cape.
"Comrade Rasool needs no introduction in this province, having served as its most successful premier," the party's elections head Fikile Mbalula said on Monday at the ANC's headquarters in Cape Town when he made the announcement.
"Under premier Rasool, the poor came first, tangible improvements in people's lives were evident, government was not just focused on smoke and mirrors then, but real changes."
The ANC removed Rasool as premier in July 2008 before his term had come to an end. He had allegedly paid journalists from the Independent Newspapers, using state money, to report favourably on him and negatively about his competitors. The matter came to be known as the "brown envelope scandal".
He was also in a bitter rivalry with Mcebisi Skwatsha, now deputy minister of rural affairs and land reform, for the leadership of the ANC in the province at the time. Rasool later served as ambassador to the United States.
According to Mbalula, "comrade Rasool" warned the DA government about the looming water crisis.
ANC to focus on plight of 'coloureds, Africans'
Mbalula also said the people of the Western Cape had been correct in saying that the ANC had not heard their cries or attended to them.
"We cannot abandon our people in the face of such difficulties that have visited them. Transformation of the economy and workplace remain at the bottom in the Western Cape. Coloureds and Africans, in particular, remain at the periphery of the economy," he said.
He said the DA's infighting in the Cape Town metro had taken resources away from the people and the "misallocation of funds of the poor into richer areas has serious social hazards".
This is what the ANC would focus its campaign on in the province, he said.
"We want to see coloureds and Africans taking centre stage in the economic transformation of this province," he said. "They must feel like a part of this province and not mere labourers."
He said the party would also focus on residency rights on farms as well as ownership of farms.
Unity and renewal
This campaign in the Western Cape was more than just about political power, Mbalula said.
It was also about "saving the people of the Western Cape from the pits of evident social and economical catastrophe which has pitted races against each other with no hope for change", he said.
Faiez Jacobs, the party's provincial secretary, said the provincial executive committee was unanimous in appointing Rasool for the election campaign, which would focus on the Cyril Ramaphosa-era themes of "unity and renewal".
Rasool said: "I believe if ever the moment was there for the ANC to be ready for this province, it is now."
He referred to the so-called Ramaphoria that has gripped the country since Ramaphosa's ascension to the presidency, and said it was a time of "putting the past behind us".
He said the ANC wanted to win "not power, but the trust of the people again".
A new ANC
The table was laid for the ANC to do well as its moment of renewal was coinciding with the DA's "implosion", he said.
It was only the ANC which had kept "stability and dignity" in the Cape Town City council intact, he added.
"The levels of indignity is making our people hungry for a difference. But they don't want the ANC of last year, they want the 2018 model of the ANC."
Mbalula said Rasool's position did not mean he was the party's candidate for premier.
"We don't have a premier candidate. We are going to go through the lists processes," he said, adding that individuals weren't just placed in positions, "the party decides".
Asked about the possibility of beleaguered Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille, who is at odds with her own party, switching allegiances from the DA to the ANC, Mbalula said: "Never say never.
'Something right' about De Lille
"The DA doesn't know [it is] throwing a good love away, they don't know it now, they will know it sometime," he said.
"Why would I reject such a beautiful person?" Mbalula said, after pointing out that De Lille gave the ANC a "tough time" in the metro and then pursued an agenda the DA didn't like.
"As to De Lille coming to the ANC, no. It will depend on the course of history. [But] like I said, never say never."
He mocked the DA for "calling a conference to amend the constitution for one person".
The DA's move showed that there was "something right about this woman", he said.
He also said it was illegal for DA leader Mmusi Maimane to interfere in the City's council, running it from "his bedroom" like "some short-circuit stokvel".
He threatened court action against Maimane.
"He likes opening cases, we are going to open one against him."
Mbalula and Rasool also said that part of the ANC's strategy in the Western Cape would be to improve its functioning as an opposition party.