The ANC has slammed its alliance partner Cosatu for publicly expressing their preference for party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as a replacement for ANC president Jacob Zuma.
"We have noted some interested parties that have expressed publicly their preferences. These preferences do not help to bolster and foster unity in the ANC," ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said.
Cosatu essentially became the first organisation to launch Ramaphosa's presidential campaign, endorsing him to take over from Zuma when his term expires in 2017.
This puts it in direct conflict with ANC structures, including the women's and youth leagues which have said they want the next ANC leader to be a woman.
The union federation has expressed growing dissatisfaction with Zuma's leadership. At Cosatu's last national conference, it mentioned its preference for a change at the top of its alliance partner for the first time.
Outgoing African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has widely been touted as the preferred candidate of the women's and youth leagues and the so-called "premier league". The "premier league" includes the premiers of Mpumalanga, Free State and North West.
The ANC says it is yet to open the succession debate and its national leadership is currently crisscrossing regions to discuss the "set of principles to guide the selection of the next leadership".
'They can make him president of Cosatu'
The ANC has announced it is managing the succession battle amid what it calls a "stampede" for the top post.
The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) has also come out strongly against Cosatu's pronouncement, saying the party cannot be dictated to by Cosatu.
"If Cosatu wants Cyril as president, they can make him president of Cosatu at their own national congress," ANCYL president Collen Maine said.
Maine also slammed Cosatu for calling for an uncontested elective congress.
Cosatu leadership addressed the media on Thursday following its three-day central executive committee (CEC) meeting.
Cosatu was facing pressure from affiliates to take a decision, with some within the federation accusing its president Sdumo Dlamini of stalling the pronouncement. Dlamini is seen as a staunch ally of Zuma.
The pressure heightened when its affiliates, public sector union National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), publicly gave Ramaphosa the nod with more affiliates expected to support the call.
Cosatu said the leadership debate was intense and robust.
Though it has no voting power within the ANC, its leaders are part of the party's national executive committee. Members are represented in ANC branches and in the past it has been instrumental in successfully lobbying for Zuma to become president in 2007 and 2012.
"We are mindful of the fact that we are not a voting structure of the ANC but we represent workers, who are members and supporters of the ANC," general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said.
Cosatu also said it too will not be dictated to by the ANC.
"The CEC made it clear that Cosatu is not a junior partner in the alliance and therefore it should not allow any alliance partner to instruct it on what it must do," Ntshalintshali said.