George - Being deputy president of the ANC is not a "shortcut" to the presidency, said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe at the party's birthday rally in George on Sunday.
There was also no need to refer to the possibility of a woman leading the 105-year-old liberation movement as “the first woman president of the ANC”, he said.
“We don't want a woman president, we want a president of the ANC,” said Mantashe, according to the party's Twitter feed from the event.
The ANC is heading into what is expected to be a tumultuous year of underground lobbying for the person to succeed President Jacob Zuma, who will finish his controversy-riddled second term in December when new leaders are chosen at its 54th elective conference.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to be a shoe-in but political chatter is placing party stalwart Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in the hustings since her resignation as chairperson of the African Union Commission.
On Thursday night Zuma told listeners to three radio stations that there was no tradition in the ANC that the deputy president automatically moved up to the number one spot.
He added that the country was ready for a woman president, a shift from previous decades when this seemed unthinkable.
In his address - one of many by ANC leaders fanned out across South Africa - Mantashe warned members against lobbying to the benefit of individual interests, and against factionalism.
He drew on the ANC's document “Through the Eye of the Needle”, which analyses how working for personal material gain goes against the party's ethos.
“We must elect leadership that's fitting and ready to deal with challenges of the time. Beware of those who come to you lobbying for their friends,” he said.