Tokyo Sexwale cautiously declared his intentions to challenge President Jacob Zuma in Mangaung in December when he said "I want to serve", according to a report on Sunday.
"It would be an honour to serve, but the branches must decide," he told the Sunday Independent.
He stopped short of saying he was going to run for the presidency of the African National Congress.
"We are already being approached," he was quoted as saying.
Sexwale, who is an ANC national executive committee member, told the newspaper he had been approached by branch members and leaders who he said wanted him and others to step up to the leadership.
The ANC will only start nominating candidates for the party's leadership in October, two months before the elections.
"There is a lot I would like to say but cannot. This is a critically sensitive time," Sexwale said.
"This is a game of numbers, of votes, of what the delegates want. Mangaung will be a conference of branches. And until the branch delegates cast those votes, we do not know what kind of beast will emerge."
According to some aides Sexwale's backing was not insignificant, the newspaper reported.
He had gained significant ground in the Eastern Cape and was pushing into several provinces.
Sexwale said he was adamant that he would not run for the sake of a seat.
"I will weigh my options very carefully, I will examine the motives of those who are nominating me. I wouldn't want to be used by factions," he was quoted as saying.
"I am not a puppet and I would not want to find myself in a position that others have found themselves in."