And he gave the clearest indication yet, at a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of former ANC president OR Tambo yesterday, that Zuma must go before the end of his term next year.
The ceremony is part of the build-up to the ANC’s 106th anniversary celebrations in the Eastern Cape next weekend.
Mantashe said the new leadership had the responsibility to ensure the image of the party improved to help it recover from a credibility deficit in the eyes of South Africans.
Mantashe said the party’s image was battered due to allegations of corruption against its leaders.
“You can’t have an ANC that is seen as synonymous with corruption, it can’t be. We can’t have an ANC that is having a trust deficit between itself as the movement of the people and the people.
“Our responsibility and (that of) other office bearers is to ensure that we reconnect with the people,” Mantashe said.
Speaking of the new leadership, he said it came at a time when the party was at its lowest and must recover.
His comments come as backers of party president Cyril Ramaphosa are preparing a fresh move to ensure that Zuma is removed as president of the country at the first meeting of the new national executive committee which takes place next week.
“When there is a leadership of the ANC there is a basic requirement that that leadership must analyse the movement broadly,” Mantashe said.
“The weakness of the last two, three years has been the personification of politics; we can’t personalise politics.
“As we analyse politics, there is nothing called a no-go area,” he said, to applause from the audience.
He also urged party members not to be factional, saying that the leadership team of six - which many see represents some from Ramaphosa’s slate and some who backed Nksozana Dlamini-Zuma - had been properly elected by delegates of the ANC to its national conference.
“Delegates practically said to us ‘we hate slate politics; we want a leadership that will unify the ANC’, and we must actually rise to the occasion.”
Mantashe also accused Zuma’s backers of abusing his name to protect their own political interests. This, he said, must stop, because it hurt Zuma and the ANC.
In what appeared to be a clear swipe at Zuma, Mantashe said Ramaphosa was wealthy. “We have a president who has money, who is wealthy, who will not be tempted to steal.
“If he steals we will ask him, 'why do you steal because you have enough',” Mantashe said, again to applause.