The ANC national working committee has issued an injunction to members to refrain from voicing their opinions about who should lead the ANC.
But the instruction is at odds with the reality of a very active campaign that is under way.
Lobbyists for candidates are crisscrossing the country, speaking to ANC regions and media.
Setumo Stone and Hlengiwe Nhlabathi look at who’s who in the campaign for presidency.
Ramaphosa is seen by those lobbying for him as the savior and unifier of a limping ANC which has suffered a huge setback amidst scandals and growing sentiment that its leadership is corrupt.
He has positioned himself as a leader who can undo the wrongs of the Jacob Zuma presidency and put the ANC and the country on a new course.
He has been described as a person with integrity and as downright presidential.
Ramaphosa’s business acumen and background as a labour leader – which earned him respect as a skilled negotiator and strategist – are expected to go a long way to ensure that his presidency delivers better prospects for the economy.
Ramaphosa chairs the National Planning Commission, which is responsible for strategic planning for the country and this is considered a cherry on top.
Cosatu has publicly declared its support for Ramaphosa, lauding him as the liberator of mine workers. However, not everyone in Cosatu agrees.
Ramaphosa also has appeal in Gauteng, where he could count ANC chairman Paul Mashatile in his corner. But support for him in the province is not unanimous.
His lobbyists also count Limpopo among the provinces that would take up his campaign.
But unlike his main adversary, none of the ANC structures have publicly proclaimed his name.
3. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
She has not formally raised her hand but insiders say she is the front runner to be the first woman to be president since the ANC was formed more than 105 years ago in 1912.
Her campaign is a direct challenge to those who hold the view that Zuma should, in terms of ANC tradition, hand over the baton to Ramaphosa.
The election of a woman for president was touted by Zuma himself in 2012 and the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) has since been running with her campaign.
But some within the ANC view this as a proxy campaign for Zuma to rule from the grave.
Her lobbyists say that the outgoing head of the AU Commission is one politician who doesn’t need any introduction within the ANC and globally.
She is described as an embodiment of ANC leadership and her struggle credentials also carry significant weight.
She declined nomination to the position of deputy president on Zuma’s slate in 2007 but insiders say she is now ready to lead the ANC and the country in 2019 when Zuma steps down.
Dlamini-Zuma enjoys the support of her ex-husband and the so-called premier league, which includes the premiers of North West, Mpumalanga and Free State.
She also has the endorsement of the ANC Youth League and ANCWL, which has called on the party to field a female candidate.
2. Baleka Mbete
Mbete ranks as the most senior female leader in the ANC at the moment because of her position as national chairperson, which she held for a decade since 2007.
Thus the lobby for a female president, equally championed by Zuma, has opened a window of opportunity for her to raise her hand.
She enjoys significant sympathy among Zuma’s supporters and there are those who say the ANCWL must find a compromise between their preference for Dlamini-Zuma and Mbete.
Questions have been raised about her exclusion in the broader campaign for female leaders to assume higher responsibility in the party.
A key lobbyist in the Mbete camp says they lost some members of the team they had put together to drive her campaign because she was unwilling to use money as an incentive.
Also, while her campaign was expected to take off in the Eastern Cape, some ANC provincial leaders were unhappy that they were being sidelined. Others in her team have allegedly received phone calls warning them to desist from campaigning.
Concerns have been raised about her ability to rise to the occasion as she seemed for a long time to have lost control of Parliament.
No structure has publicly raised her name. However, her supporters expect OR Tambo region in Eastern Cape, among the biggest ANC regional structures in the country, to be the first to put Mbete’s name on the ballot paper.
Mbete could also expect some support from the North West, where ANC chairperson Supra Mahumapelo has previously said the campaign for a woman president should not only be limited to Dlamini-Zuma because there were other equally competent women in the ANC such as Mbete.
1. Jeff Radebe
Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe ticks all the right boxes for ANC leadership, according to his backers. Radebe went to Robben Island, he went to exile and he got military training.
He is an intellectual with a Master of Laws degree from a German university, “so academically he is sound”.
Radebe, says a lobbyist, was part of the ANC’s underground operations in KwaZulu-Natal and participated in the mass democratic movement.
“Such a person has got an institutional memory of the organisation,” he says.
“He is the one guy who is an embodiment of what the ANC leader is supposed to be currently. He has the ear and respect of the ANC alliance, military personnel of the ANC, veterans, professionals, academics and civil society within the ANC.”
Radebe has been in Cabinet since 1994 and has never been dropped.
He finished his term in all ministerial posts, says the lobbyist. Also, he says, Radebe functions like a prime minister in the Zuma administration and he is “not a novice in geopolitics”.
“It will be quiet naive of the ANC constituency not to look at someone who has his qualities,” says the campaign insider.
He says Radebe has “no public scandal where he has ever been involved which means that he has not been tarnished”.
His principle is also that he will not be supporting slates.
“He is one guy who has been principled to the ANC. He has never been in public insulting any leader. He is someone that has been very quiet”.
He says Radebe “has got no province that owes him so the issue of tribalism will never stick on him”.
Again, no structure has declared support for him publicly. But his supporters say a lot of groundwork has been done in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Eastern Cape where runners are quietly lobbying “without disturbing the protocol of the ANC”.