Zuma comes in at 74, which puts him in a relatively good spot to secure a seat in the 400-member National Assembly if he gets enough support.
Malusi Gigaba, the former Home Affairs minister, is at 26.
The preliminary national list was released on Friday after nominations were made at provincial list conferences.
If they accept nomination, Zuma and Gigaba will have to wait for the outcome of the national list conference, where all provincial lists are consolidated, to know where they stand.
The national list conference was due to take place last weekend but has been postponed to January 4 and 5.
Insiders say the postponement was due to some provinces lodging grievances about the way the list conferences had been conducted.
This included the North West and the Western Cape, which was set to rerun its list conference owing to grievances raised by party members.
Responding to questions about his nomination, Gigaba said: “I can’t go against the will of the branches.”
He refused to say anything else, saying it was an internal matter.
Zuma has not yet indicated if he will accept nomination. However, during his annual chess tournament in Mandeni in northern KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday, he said: “I’ll be around to make my haters frustrated for a long time.”
Sources said the list conference had reignited tension between the pro-Ramaphosa and pro-Zuma factions in the ANC.
“If you carefully look at the list, you will see that it comprises both Zuma supporters and those who support Ramaphosa. This is not unity but a war,” said a national executive committee (NEC) member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
KwaZulu-Natal ANC Youth League secretary Thanduxolo Sabelo said they were excited about Gigaba’s nomination.
“There’s nothing untoward about Malusi being on the list. All the branches across the country have voted for him. We don’t have a problem with him,” he said.
Sabelo, who was vying for the position of Youth League president, said Gigaba was a tried-and-tested cadre of the ANC who had party and government experience.
“What makes us even happier is that he is the former president of the Youth League,” said Sabelo.
Zuma resigned in February after mounting pressure for him to go from both within and outside his party. But he remained an ex-officio member of the ANC’s NEC by virtue of being the former president.
Gigaba resigned both as minister of Home Affairs and as a member of Parliament last month after growing calls for Ramaphosa to sack him.
This stemmed from a high court ruling that found him guilty of lying under oath.
The matter related to claims that he never gave permission to the Oppenheimer family business, Fireblade Aviation, to operate a private terminal at ORTambo International Airport.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found he had also lied about the issue in Parliament and recommended that Ramaphosa take appropriate action against Gigaba.
Then a video surfaced on social media which Gigaba said he had made for his wife Noma, and was illegally taken off his phone.
He subsequently apologised to his family.
He remains a member of the NEC.
The ANC’s acting national spokesperson, Dakota Legoete, said the final list would be concluded at the national list conference next month.
On Zuma being on the list, Legoete said: “There are no surprises because Zuma is a member of the ANC in good standing and the branches have expressed their view.”