ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe has refuted claims that he was forced to criticise Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa for pronouncing on his preferred running mates for the December elective conference.
"Forced by who? Even those saying I was forced, they can't name anyone who supposedly forced me," he said.
Ramaphosa announced on Sunday, in what has been seen in the #CR17 machinery as a "surprise and a blunder", that branches should nominate Naledi Pandor as deputy president, Mantashe as national chair, Senzo Mchunu as secretary general and Paul Mashatile as treasurer-general.
READ: Pandor For Deputy: Risky For Ramaphosa, Smart For The ANC
The ANC said in a statement on Monday that the party's 2015 National General Council outlawed slates and affirmed the role of branches in electing their preferred leadership.
Ramaphosa has faced criticism from his supporters and also raised the ire of those supporting his rivals. The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association, that is backing his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said Ramaphosa was behaving like a soccer coach.
"It cannot be that any comrade behaves like a Bafana Bafana coach announcing the selection of his team and, in doing so, undermines the inalienable right of our branches to select the best candidates to implement the national democratic revolution, " MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus said in a statement.
MKMVA has also hit at Mantashe and said his statement tried to equate "lobbying lists that are making the rounds to Ramaphosa's formal announcement of his team".
Inevitably, the unfortunate question arises whether he is deliberately obfuscating the issues because he finds himself on the slate that the deputy president announced.Carl Niehaus
MKMVA has pronounced on its preferred top six, that includes Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza as deputy president and Free State premier Ace Magashule as secretary-general.
It has, however, defended its own pronouncement and said that the 2015 decision only barred presidential aspirants from announcing their running mates - not members and leagues.
Mantashe said, despite being in Ramaphosa's mentioned slate, he would still have criticised his announcement because he was defending a party "principle".
READ: Did Ramaphosa Dig His Own Grave By Ignoring DD Mabuza?
"I always tell people, factionalism is bad for the organisation, whether that faction supports you or not ....factionalism is the cancer that eats organisations. I will continue to talk against it," Mantashe told News24.
Mantashe has faced heat from some who have said he would be unable to be independent because he was a part of the Ramaphosa slate.
However, Mantashe said, currently in the top six, there were three presidential candidates and another member campaigning for another.