This, he said, was despite the fact that president Zuma received raucous applause during the announcement of his nomination for the position of ANC president.
Motlanthe accepted the nomination to challenge Zuma for this position on Monday, but withdrew his nomination for the position of deputy president.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, Mashatile remained confident that anyone nominated stood a chance to win the election, including Motlanthe.
"I think we are ready [for the fight]. Let's allow voting to take place. With secret ballot anything can happen. We are hopeful that we will win," said Mashatile, who has been a chief campaigner for leadership change in the ANC.
Mashatile's province is pushing for a generational transition in the ANC and has called for the Zuma generation to make way for a new crop of younger leaders like Motlanthe.
Asked whether the writing was on the wall for Motlanthe, given the delegates’ apparent and overwhelming support for Zuma, Mashatile said: "We told our people not to howl and sing derogatory songs." He said the conference would be decided at the ballot box. Mashatile was nominated for the position of treasurer general against his counterpart and KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize. Motlanthe avoided a bruising contestation with his successor at the National Union of Mineworkers, businessman Cyril Ramaphosa. Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula is contesting Gwede Mantashe for the powerful position of the party's secretary general.
Meanwhile ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa and North West Premier and current ANC deputy secretary general Thandi Modise said they accepted nominations not to win, but to exercise their democratic rights and the honour the wishes of branches to choose their preferred leaders.
"We all subjected ourselves to the decisions of the collective; the branches and the delegate at the conference. Branches must finally decide. This is democracy in action. My only concern is that we have not succeeded in defeating the culture of slates. There were clear slates during [nomination]," said Phosa.
Modise said: "I am not standing because I want to win by hook or crook. This [acceptance of the nomination] will strengthen democracy within the ANC. We have to do away with this notion that positions are for certain individuals within the ANC. It is my right to contest elections as elected by branches. I fought for this right. By accepting, I was exercising my right. It is not about me winning."
Modise said she decided to decline the position of deputy secretary general because she wanted to focus on her job as North West Premier. "I thought it was better to make way for Jessie, because she is based in Johannesburg while I'm based in North West. The position of chair is not full time. So I don't need to be based at Luthuli House," said Modise.
The ANC is losing its values
The ANC is losing its values, as it grows, sacrificing "decency, promotion of rights, and respect" North West Premier Thandi Modise said following the finalisation of nominations for the party's top six posts.
Modise was nominated for national chairperson, where she looked likely to lose against incumbent Baleka Mbete, who received loud cheers from delegates in contrast to scattered boos directed at Modise.
She declined the nomination to keep her current job as deputy secretary general.
As she spoke to the M&G, supporters from Eastern Cape came to hug her and assure her that they would vote for her. "Asijiki!" they assured her, repeating the slogan of the anti-Zuma lobby and signalling that they would keep fighting. Modise insisted that she valued principle and did not mind losing her position as if it was the result of speaking her mind. She did not elaborate, but it is understood that Modise, alongside Motlanthe and Phosa, differed with Zuma, Mantashe and Mbete on numerous issues. Chief among those was the disciplinary action against former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.
Modise condemned the treatment of dissent within the party.
"There has to be recognition that there is too much pain and despondency [that results from being treated badly]. You [should] take a stand and exercise your rights," she said.
She insisted that she was unconcerned about reports that she could lose her job as premier following claims by Zuma lobbyists that she could be among the people targeted for removal after this Mangaung conference.
"There is something wrong whenever you have to weigh up your job versus a principle that you stand for,” she said.