Three top tripartite alliance leaders, regarded as the brain trust of the ruling party, have surprisingly declined nomination to the ANC 's highest decision-making body, the national executive committee (NEC).
In what appears to be an indication of dissatisfaction in ANC leadership under President Jacob Zuma, National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the South African Communist Party's deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin have turned down nomination to serve on the ANC's NEC.
By late on Saturday businessman and NEC member Cyril Ramaphosa still had not indicated if he would accept nomination for a deputy president position amid speculation that he would decline if current deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe went up for the same position.
Motlanthe has accepted nomination for the ANC's presidency, the deputy presidency, as well as an NEC position.
Zuma's supporters have been pinning their hopes on Ramaphosa accepting the post of deputy president to boost the credibility of the slate.
There are growing concerns within the ANC whether the re-election of Zuma would be able to increase support for the ANC in the next national election.
Members of opposition parties in Parliament last month called for a motion of no confidence against the president. There is also a cloud hanging over the National Prosecuting Authority's case of fraud and corruption against Zuma, which was discontinued by acting NPA director Mokotedi Mpshe. The Supreme Court of Appeals has ordered the NPA to provide documents to opposition Democratic Alliance on the reasons why it discontinued the prosecution of the president.
On Saturday morning Vavi tweeted to explain the reason for his absence from the conference.
"I may miss first day of ANC conference tomorrow. Wife admitted in hospital to control diabetics/sugar levels that suddenly shot up. I know the paranoid will launch a massive whispering campaign about a new party when they don't see me there – hahahaha!!"
Later on Saturday Vavi declined his NEC nomination, also on Twitter.
"Thanks to all branches and provinces who nominated me to serve in the NEC but I have to decline for same reasons as before. As [[general secretary] I'm chief spokesperson of Cosatu, don't want to confuse public as to who I speak on behalf of when occupying 2 to 3 positions. Before 1994 alliance leaders could occupy 3 positions without feeling compromised but not today when one partner is governing. Personally I don't want to find myself saying something today and something else tomorrow. I do care a lot about my credibility."
Vavi first declined nomination for the ANC's executive position during the 2007 Polokwane conference to maintain Cosatu's independence. In contrast, Cosatu's president Sdumo Dlamini has indicated he would accept nomination for NEC position. There have been attempts in the past few years to win over critical voices from the left by the ANC and government.
Manuel told Business Day in an interview on Saturday his decision to decline was not a step out of anger, but to move on and give way to a younger generation.
"It's not a step out of anger, it is not a response to Bishop Tutu. I am not going anywhere else. it is just that I have reached that time of life," he said.
In a conversation between Manuel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu earlier in the week week, Tutu was overheard telling Manuel that "he did not belong in this government".