Pretoria - The ANC's presidential hopefuls are like horses that have bolted, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.
None of the party's senior leaders had received nominations from branches, he said at a special national executive committee meeting in Irene, Pretoria.
"All that you see is people expressing their ambitions, that's all. Not a single candidate has been nominated."
Mantashe said the media and the public at large should not be fooled by branches calling for certain individuals to succeed President Jacob Zuma.
Those branches might be persuaded to vote for someone else by the time the party holds its elective conference in December.
"I look at them and I say: 'These horses have bolted. They are all over the camp now.' How will you bring them back to the stable? Let them gallop. We will start the nominations in September."
He denied reports that early campaigning by presidential hopefuls Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was causing divisions in the party. The media was creating a narrative about divisions, he said.
Deputy president Ramaphosa, former AU commission chairperson Dlamini-Zuma, ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete and NEC member Lindiwe Sisulu were reportedly all campaigning.
Some Eastern Cape branches have expressed support for Sisulu. Ramaphosa has received backing from the ANC's West Rand region in Gauteng. The party's leagues are behind Dlamini-Zuma.
High on the NEC's agenda was the country's economic decline, the fees commission, which is investigating the feasibility of free tertiary education; the National Health Insurance; and state-owned entities, Mantashe said.
He said the party could no longer wait for the fees commission's report and had to act decisively to avoid another student uprising.
"There will be a shutdown at universities and there will be a protest accusing people of being rebellious. We have made society wait for too long."
The NHI could no longer be in a pilot phase. SOEs needed to stop having senior people in acting positions, he said. All these matters would be discussed at the party's lekgotla, which starts on Friday July 28.
The ANC's alliance partners will take part in discussions. In 2016, Zuma extended the fees commission's deadline to June 30, to allow time for research and consultation.