Although Jacob Zuma supporters are trying to secure the presidency for Cyril Ramaphosa, there is a group that wants Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to return.
ANC lobbyists have already begun exchanging ideas on names of the possible top six leaders come 2017, as party leaders prepare for life after current president Jacob Zuma.
Although staunch Zuma supporters are trying to secure the presidency for his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa, there is also talk of a group that secretary general Gwede Mantashe is said to be part of. It's not clear yet who this group wants as president.
If the Ramaphosa lobbyists succeed, they would prefer current national chairperson Baleka Mbete for deputy president, ANC chairperson and Free State Premier Ace Magashule for national chairperson and Jessie Duarte to remain deputy secretary general. They have no names yet for the secretary general and treasurer general positions – these lobbyists are trying to involve other provinces that are not yet included in deciding the proposed top six officials. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's name, which was punted but later withdrawn before the 2012 Mangaung congress, is likely to reappear.
But there is another group that wants African Union commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to return and run for the ANC presidency. An Eastern Cape provincial executive committee (PEC) member said there were informal talks in the province to support Dlamini-Zuma as the next president and Mantashe as deputy president.
"The issue of Ramaphosa as president is not going to work," the PEC member said. "Key supporters of Zuma in KwaZulu-Natal want Nkosazana. Many people in the ANC sympathise with Nkosazana."
The PEC member said those lobbying for Dlamini-Zuma have the option of retaining Ramaphosa as her deputy with Mantashe as national chairperson.
ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize is earmarked for the position of secretary general, with Magashule as treasurer general.
Dlamini-Zuma 'might come'
Dlamini-Zuma is on the ANC's list for Parliament, but her term of office at the AU only ends in 2016.
"It's realistic that [she] might come back in 2016 and campaign for a position in the top six," said a pro-Zuma national executive committee member. "It is not ideal but it is not unrealistic. But it has never happened before that someone starts campaigning that late and succeeds."
In 2007 Tokyo Sexwale announced his availability to run for presidency a few months before the Polokwane congress, but his campaign failed.
Some in the Eastern Cape insist Mantashe should contest for the position of deputy president in 2017.
"He [Mantashe] has a better political posture and clarity at the moment in the ANC top six," said the Eastern Cape PEC member.
"The rest are incapable of reading the political situation in the country and the world. Eastern Cape will come as a solid province behind him as deputy president."
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's name is also being mentioned as a possible candidate for president, but it seems unlikely after the humiliation he suffered in Mangaung when he lost to Zuma.