ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe has labelled the many structures that have made a pronouncement on preferred candidates for the role of president as ill-disciplined.
This comes after the African National Congress Woman's League (ANCWL) publicly backing outgoing African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position.
"All of those who pronounced early, prematurely, are ill-disciplined. It is in a way following on Cosatu and a number of affiliates who have made pronouncements. I actually call this a false start. I was a sprinter in my days and if you kick out of the blocks early then you are running the risk of being disqualified," Mantashe said on Sunday.
"If the word is out it can't come back even if you withdraw. They are putting their candidate in the running prematurely and even if we say it's ill-disciplined that name is already out there. The reality of the matter is undermining the processes of the organisation is not acceptable."
The ANCWL made the announcement on Saturday night following a national Eexecutive committee meeting.
In their statement, the organisation said Dlamini-Zuma was the most suitable candidate to take over from Jacob Zuma at the end of 2017 when the party goes for the elective conference.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in 2016 announced that it preferred deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma. Mantashe said the actions of the structures went against the party's policies and rules.
"It's unfortunate that people prefer to have an early start when we said to focus on the principles, strengthen the branches because it is the duty of branches to nominate. Ninety percent of delegates at conferences come from the branches so our focus should be on the branches to say don't accept slates out of the blue, work on understanding why do we nominate a certain candidate, what is the track record of the candidate and take a decision," he said.