Johannesburg - African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe has labelled the number of candidates vying for the top position in the ruling party as abnormal, saying "something is sick".Mantashe addressed the latest string of smear campaigns at a memorial lecture on former ANC president Oliver Tambo on Friday at the MKMVA Kwa-Thema branch.He said the party was behaving like the Nationalist Party."You cannot have a situation in the ANC that after all these sacrifices, we have 8 candidates for presidency, it's abnormal."The last time we had this was in 1952 when they were contesting Luthuli's presidency. There were 10 candidates. We cant repeat that in 2017... Something is sick."Deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Lindiwe Sisulu, Baleka Mbete, Mathews Phosa, Jeff Radebe and Zweli Mkhize have all been quietly campaigning across the country for the party's top job. Nominations officially opened for branches in six provinces last week. The party has concluded branch audits for Limpopo, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and North West.The party however is yet to complete audits for KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.The audits determine the number of branches in good standing and the number of delegates that will represent each province at the elective conference.Mantashe then made a veiled reference to the Ekurhuleni Regional Executive Committee that announced its preferred candidate was Dlamini-Zuma at a press briefing without consulting branches.He disapproved of the move, saying delegates should rather visit branches and try to convince them of their preferred candidates."Branches must ask them why they want that leader and then they show the strengths of their preferred leader."He warned branches against choosing popular leaders in December at the parties most highly contested elective conference."We have to reinstate the ANC and its values. If in December we choose a leader who will send a message that looting continues, if we choose that line up, we should know that we're cutting our life short."Mantashe said delegates must elect leaders that are able to rescue the party."If you send delegates that are opportunist, they will just be given R2000 for their votes. Branches must choose delegates wisely."