ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has emphasised the need to "intensify" the ANC's campaign ahead of 2019, when South Africa goes to the polls.
He said the battle essentially begins now, but after the African National Congress concludes its national conference in December, its campaign will be consolidated by a new leadership.
The presidential hopeful called opposition parties "pretenders to the throne".
"Other parties have already started to prepare for 2019, they are dreaming of occupying the Union Buildings. Beyond December, we need to intensify our campaign for the 2019 elections. It starts from now," Ramaphosa said.
"The ANC will be armed with the best policies, underpinned by revolutionary radicalism... policies that are going to be implemented. The ANC will be armed with a leadership which is committed to serve our people and nobody else, a leadership that will not be captured."
Ramaphosa was speaking during his keynote address at the National Education and Health Allied Workers Union's (Nehawu) national congress in Boksburg on Monday.
He was welcomed by a standing ovation by delegates and introduced as the next president of South Africa. Ramaphosa has enjoyed almost overwhelming support from the unions in his crusade for country's top spot.
Speaking ahead of the ANC's policy conference this coming weekend, Ramaphosa said the meeting will examine "what has worked and what has not worked".
"The policy conference must establish a platform for rapid growth, massive job creation and fundamental economic transformation... The economy is still some distance away from achieving the rate of growth that our country needs," Ramaphosa said.
He said government needs to "deracialise" the economy and end the "domination" of a few large companies in various sectors who are surviving on "riding the monopoly wave".
"To succeed, we need to ensure there is clear leadership from all sectors of society. Plans are in place, we need to implement what we already have... It doesn't help to have all these wonderful policies if you don't have a leadership that is going to be committed to them."
Ramaphosa urged the alliance members to be vocal about problems within the ANC.
"We must not keep quiet, we must not shut up. This is not a moment for going under the blanket, it is a moment for speaking out," he said.
"We need urgently to take measures to correct our weaknesses. We are not as strong as we used to be. We are not as united as we used to be."
As in many of his recent speeches, Ramaphosa condemned state capture.
"We must confront the allegations of state capture as more and more evidence is emerging. The emails (Gupta leaks) are spewing out everything. It seems to demonstrate that there has been undue external influence over appointments and decisions," he said.
He urged for the support of president Jacob Zuma's decision of establishing a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture and encouraged the Hawks' investigation into similar allegations.
"South Africans do not deserve a leadership that will be unaccountable and act with impunity. They want leaders who will conduct themselves with honesty."