ANC heavyweight and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is also doubtful about the suggestion that could see either Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa - the frontrunners in the party’s succession race - deputising for the winning candidate.
Sharp divisions have also emerged about whether the ANC should use the term "white monopoly capital" or "monopoly capital", despite Zuma’s assertion on Wednesday that the governing party had resolved that monopoly capital was its preferred policy for economic transformation to redress inequality and the redistribution of wealth.
Zuma’s pronouncement in his closing speech at the ANC’s five-day policy conference on Wednesday, that the party had agreed on a compromise proposal that whoever came second at the December elective conference should become the deputy president, appeared to cause uneasiness and protests from some of the delegates and senior leaders.
Zuma was at pains to explain that the proposal - which is part of the ANC’s strategy and tactics for the organisation’s renewal - would help get rid of the factionalism that has fractured the ANC.
Zuma said the ANC had learnt from the experience of the previous two conferences, in Mangaung and Polokwane, when the party lost many “talented and capable” comrades, some of whom quit the party to form Cope.
“In this regard, a proposal has been made that we should all encourage lobbying practices that will allow a unifying electoral outcome,” he said, adding that this would help build consensus in ANC structures and ensure “collective leadership”.
Dlamini Zuma, when approached for comment, was quick to say she supported the proposal.
“I think the president was right, that we had to find a solution that unites the organisation, and that the proposal must be discussed,” she said.
When asked if she would consider serving as the deputy president if she lost the presidential race, Dlamini Zuma was non-committal.
“The conference will decide on that. I am a cadre of the organisation and will do what the organisation decides.”
Asked about her prospects at this stage, she retorted “You are overstepping”.
One of Dlamini Zuma’s backers, Sihle Zikalala, said the proposal for a power-sharing deal was not a bad idea, but needed more detail.
ANC KwaZulu-Natal secretary Super Zuma said the push for a compromise deal had not been informed by panic, but was for the unity of the party.
“We don’t want to talk numbers, they know we are commanding numbers. There is no way we can panic. It is just for the unity of the organisation. We will do everything to unite the organisation, but not bully other provinces because we have numbers. KwaZulu-Natal is very solid,” he said
The Umkhonto We Sizwe Military Veterans Association also seemed convinced by Zuma’s proposal.
Association chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said questions needed to be asked on how it would affect the branches' power to nominate their candidates.
Maphatsoe asked what would happen to a candidate who was nominated and contesting for a deputy president position if it was given automatically to the person who had lost the battle to be president.
He agreed that the proposal seemed not to sit well with many delegates.
“I also saw that it was not warmly received. So we still need to be persuaded on this matter. We need further explanation,” he said.
Sisulu also sounded unconvinced by the proposal.
“The power-sharing thing, I am hearing that for the first time. And I think it is so unfortunate that it comes for the first time when the water has been muddied,” she said.
“The branches are likely to receive it with a bit of scepticism, unless it had come right at the beginning, when the lobbying started."
"We would have had resounding applause from everybody. All I want to say is that I wish it had come earlier. There is so much factionalism.”
There was also discord among senior ANC members over the party’s decision to adopt "monopoly capital" instead of "white monopoly capital". But Sisulu said she was in favour of the decision.
“We did have serious discussions, but in the end we agreed we should stick to things that unite us."
"The issue of white monopoly capital was introduced in the commissions."
"We argued that it is monopoly capital. I think the president steered that line. We agreed to stick to the things that keep us together,” she said.
However, Dlamini Zuma had a different view: “There’s no doubt that in South Africa as a whole, it is a monopoly of the white conglomerates that dominates the economy."
"So I don’t think it is even an issue, but elsewhere and in general, it is monopoly capital. But in South Africa, if you look at Group 5, the food, beverages and construction industries, it’s all white dominated.”
Maphatsoe shared the same sentiments. He was adamant that his camp had not been defeated on the debate. He said some among those who were arguing against the use of "white monopoly capital" were directors in companies and direct beneficiaries.
These views were in sharp contrast with Zuma’s assertions that the conference had been a resounding success that had united the party.