President Jacob Zuma on Thursday gave the first hint that he does not back his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him by telling SABC radio stations that it was not ANC policy for a deputy to ascend to the highest office.

Speaking to Motsweding FM‚ Lesedi FM‚ and Thobela FM last night‚ Zuma said it was not true that an ANC culture existed where a deputy must become president.
Although Zuma was responding to a question from a listener‚ he appeared to be punting outgoing AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma saying she had joined the struggle before before marrying him. He also listed her leadership achievements‚ including being a cabinet minister.
Zuma also told the stations that he would not seek a third term‚ saying there was an agreement within the party to avoid the creation of a two-centres of power.
Zuma said the argument that it was ANC tradition for a deputy to become president was used to “motivate” for a candidate.
“Anyone who is nominated can contest. There is no policy. It's not true that it's a tradition‚” said Zuma.
The President said it was a coincidence that former presidents Oliver Tambo‚ Nelson Mandela and Mbeki were succeeded by their deputies.
“I'm saying it's not a policy and not an accepted tradition as such. It's a statement that people just make not because it's true.”
However‚ Zuma's supporters used the same argument when they campaigned for him to succeed Mbeki in 2007.
Although Zuma was responding to questions from the interviewer‚ his responses appear to be a response to party secretary general Gwede Mantashe who on Wednesday told reporters that when the party elects a deputy it should have succession in mind.
Mantashe's statement was widely interpreted as an endorsement of Ramaphosa's campaign to become president. Ramaphosa's backers‚ including Cosatu‚ have argued that it was ANC tradition for a deputy to rise to the highest office. They have used the Polokwane example‚ where Zuma‚ who was then deputy president‚ succeeded Mbeki.
But Zuma said on Thursday “it was an accident of history” that deputies became presidents.
In what could be another jibe at Mantashe‚ Zuma said ANC leaders should respect the party directive not to discuss names of preferred leaders saying this was tantamount to ill-discipline. He said discussion must be limited top policy issues.
“Sometimes comrades who are in the leadership have been making comments.. Which makes it difficult [to expect ordinary members to toe the line]...those who are senior we are saying this is not the time‚” he said. Zuma told the SABC that he was not available to serve another term as ANC president.
“I am not going to accept it [nomination for presidency]. I have done my two terms. This is the understanding that emerged within the ANC... We generally had an understanding that it will not be good to create two centres [of power] ….. it's an understanding that you need the ANC to operate smoothly.”
Within ANC circles‚ Zuma is believed to prefer Nkosazana to succeed him.
He repeated a statement he made on Wednesday that the party was ready for a female president.
“In the ANC that is no longer the issue. It has been accepted that [women] can hold senior positions.”
He said it was not a concern for the Zuma family that his ex-wife Nkosazana may become president.
“Not at all. Nkosazana has been struggling before she became a Zuma. She has held a number of positions.... If the ANC says we think we can give you the responsibility it's not at all a concern to the Zuma family.”
Zuma also spoke about the public protector's state capture report‚ saying that he had taken the report to court because former public protector Thuli Madonsela had acted unfairly towards him.
Zuma repeated his claim that Madonsela did not give him enough time to respond to the questions‚ saying he felt the report was a rushed job.
“It was quite a funny way of making a report‚” said Zuma.
-TMG Digital/Sunday Times