ANC national chairperson and speaker of Parliament, Baleka Mbete, is ready to lead the ANC.
In an interview with City Press, Mbete said she was available for the top job.
"I have served in the ANC for just over 40 years and occupied various roles in the process, my latest being as the party's first female national chairperson. And I have had the honour of serving as such two terms," she said.
Mbete reportedly said she had overcome many challenges during her tenure, and had learnt valuable leadership skills. Mbete is now the third female candidate to raise her hand for the job, after former African Union commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and human settlements minister, Lindiwe Sisulu both announced their candidacies.
Mbete was asked whether the ANC had enough space for female leaders. She said: "I do not think that we can wait for the perfect conditions for women to lead. Women participate; they play roles under very difficult circumstances. They have shown how brave they are.
"People say women hold the knife on the sharp end, but all they get are compliments. They are not given leadership positions.
"I think that society has been very dishonest in this regard because you will find that men -- even those less competent than many of the women who have played leadership roles -- are made leaders.
"I think we need to just say to ourselves: 'It is time. Let us allow for women to lead. Let us not be talking about conditions not yet being right.' When will they be right?"
Mbete said she did not feel betrayed by the ANCWL's decision to back Dlamini-Zuma, but she said she was a bit surprised.
"I was not hurt. A bit surprised – that I can say. But I don't know whether it is my more than 40 years of being in politics that played a role.
"I was surprised, but I did not feel personally betrayed because you never have expectations in this game – because if you live on expectations, you will be hurt every day. You will die of a heart condition," she told City Press.
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Sunday Independent, Sisulu warned against a two-horse race for power within the ANC. She said the tradition had "factionalised" the ANC.
"I actually think that democracy is deepening in the ANC, and gone are the days when there was just one or two people standing. There's a wider space for people to choose from," she said.
Sisulu also repeated her views that opening the leadership race before the policy conference had "muddied the waters."
"The conference was not about issues, it was about which side is pushing the issues."