Johannesburg - ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has hit back at presidential hopeful Lindiwe Sisulu, dismissing her "royal tendencies", after she questioned his struggle credentials.Mantashe was referring to Sisulu's struggle lineage – she is the daughter of former ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu.He was responding to her comments at the weekend, where she reportedly asked: "Where was Mantashe when they were fighting for freedom in exile and jail?"According to the Daily Dispatch, Sisulu attacked Mantashe's character, blaming him for divisions in the party and questioning his struggle credentials.Her comments had followed tweets from Mantashe that were seen as endorsing deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the best candidate to replace President Jacob Zuma when he steps down in December.On Tuesday, Mantashe told reporters at Luthuli house: "I thought her comments were unfortunate in the sense that she associates struggle with exile,""Therefore everybody who was internal [in the country] who was here in the belly of the beast, who was facing the enemy everyday and disrupting points of production was working for the royal families who were cushioned from the enemy," he said.The Sisulus, Tambos and Mandelas, who are locally and internationally revered as the struggle icons of the liberation, are regarded as ANC royalty.Silly season"When you work for a royal family you are an invisible contributor... they take credit on your behalf because you are invisible," Mantashe said.On Monday, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu defended Mantashe and slammed Sisulu as politically immature and disappointing.READ: Mthembu slams Sisulu as politically immature and disappointingMantashe claimed Sisulu's comments were linked to her presidential ambitions."I have not met with her. The reason is that we are in a silly season… To expect rationality from people contesting for positions at the December conference is like expecting water from a rock,” Mantashe said.He, however, defended his comments about the deputy ascending to the presidency. The succession battle has divided the party with seven leaders vying for the top job."An organisation that is 105 years old must manage succession, we cannot have a free for all… I am raising it as a principled issue because if we don’t manage it [succession] there will be chaos," Mantashe said."If we are overlooking the deputy president we must explain to the party and society that these are his weaknesses, then ANC will be at peace with itself."He dismissed accusations that he would be biased, in the management of the elective conference, as "malicious and mischievous".He said some of the presidential hopefuls were national executive committee members who were also responsible for preparations of the December conference.