Phosa and Radebe join former AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete in the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma.
The ANC goes to a watershed elective conference in December with calls for unity and leaders told to stop campaigning.
But now Phosa and Radebe’s entry into the race has revealed deep fractures in the party, giving the clearest indication yet that this is not going to be a two-horse race between Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma.
Ironically Radebe, one of the longest serving cabinet ministers and senior party official, is Ramaphosa’s brother-in-law.
They are both married to billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s sisters, Bridgette and Tshepo, respectively.
On Sunday, Phosa took centre stage in the Western Cape as ANC provincial executive committee member.
Andile Lili backed him to succeed Zuma, saying his Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement wants him to lead the party.
Lili said the ANC in its current state was unable to address the needs of the poor and if that was unattended to, Ses’khona, an organisation founded to fight social injustice, would register to become a political party.
Lili said they would be lobbying ANC members to back Phosa, a man without scandal, he said, unlike some of the candidates.
“With Zuma we spent most of his term in office defending him and it would be the same with Cyril Ramaphosa because of his attachments to the Marikana saga and the buffalo saga,” he said.
“Women and men in the ANC who are credible leaders are the likes of Phosa, Paul Mashatile, Blade Nzimande, Thandi Modise, Lindiwe Sisulu, Lindiwe Zulu."
“With those people in the top six we can start uniting the movement.”
Lili said Ses’khona will not stay for long in the ANC in its current form.
“Were there to be radical transformation in the leadership of the party, there is hope that the people who left will come back once credible leaders are at the helm.”
But political analyst Daniel Silke said the addition of Phosa to the list of candidates is not an assurance that he will get the support the two front runners already have.
“We are going to see a host of names being thrown out there in the coming months.
“But a lot of the names don’t necessarily have sufficient support to be any real threat to the two front runners.
“They are providing choices as a means of splitting the votes. I call them decoy candidates and we are seeing a lot of that with the mentioning of Mbete and Phosa.
“In the case of Phosa, it might be just a way of revitalising his position in the ANC.
“He has mainly been in the periphery and will use a nomination to re-establish himself.”
Silke said Radebe would bring an “interesting new dynamic to the race”.
“He would be seen as a bridge building candidate, as he is someone with sufficient respect from a variety of formations within the ANC."
“He has not been tainted,” said Silke.
Other analysts have backed Radebe’s bid to become the next leader of the party.
His entry into the race shows that it is likely to be a fiercely contested succession battle.
Sources told The Sunday Independent, the sister newspaper of the Pretoria News, it was at a secret meeting in Sandton last week where Radebe agreed to challenge Dlamini Zuma and Ramaphosa.
University of the Western Cape political analyst Bheki Mngomezulu said Radebe was fit to lead and unite the party, which is divided by slates.
“Jeff Radebe has occupied senior leadership positions both in the ANC and the SACP.
“He has what it takes to take the position should he be nominated or voted for it.
Dlamini Zuma is believed to be enjoying support from her former husband and the ANCWL, while Ramaphosa is backed by labour federation Cosatu and will likely be endorsed by the ANC in Gauteng.
Analyst Xolani Dube said Radebe can reconcile the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu.
“Ideologically he is clear.”