The African National Congress (ANC) needs leaders who are selfless, courageous, patient and humble, national executive committee member Cyril Ramaphosa says.
Mr Ramaphosa was recently thrust back into the political limelight after his name was attached to the position of deputy president on President Jacob Zuma’s slate in the run-up to the ANC’s national elective conference in December.
He also chairs the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals, which confirmed the expulsion of former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. The politician-turned-businessman was speaking on Friday at a symposium at Wits University to commemorate the life of former ANC secretary-general Walter Sisulu.
"The challenges of the present call for leaders who are humble like Walter Sisulu, for leaders who are patient like Walter Sisulu," Mr Ramaphosa said.
"The present moment calls for leaders who are also courageous - to ask the difficult questions and who have the conviction to stand by their principles."
This year has been described as a watershed by the ANC, as it grapples with transforming the economy and electing a leadership that will catapult it into its second century.
In documents ahead of the June policy conference the party asks tough questions regarding the kind of membership and leadership required for this.
The party has bemoaned the emergence of a "shadow culture", which it says has become "embedded". This includes using money to lobby for party positions, factionalism, the prevalence of indecisive leadership at all levels, abuse of symbols and methods of struggle, and disruptions at party gatherings.
Mr Ramaphosa said only through a strong ANC could a "better life for all be realised".
"We cannot simply view our strength through electoral terms. The measure of our strength lies in the vibrancy of the branches of the ANC and the extent to which they are rooted in communities, it lies in the frankness of our political debates and the depth of our democracy."
He said conditions in the country called for leaders who were prepared to "confront injustice" and "respect" the rights of others.
"We need cadres who are diligent to thoroughly analyse what these challenges are. We need cadres who are able to translate and understand what the tactics and the strategies should be," Mr Ramaphosa said.
He was endorsed as such a leader by fellow national executive committee member, Science and Technology Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom, who chaired the symposium. Mr Hanekom said the ANC needed leaders of Mr Ramaphosa’s "calibre ". He hoped Mr Ramaphosa, a former secretary-general of the ANC, would set aside his business interests and take up a more "senior position". He said he was not opening a succession debate, which is set to kick off in October.
Mr Ramaphosa stepped back from party politics after former president Nelson Mandela publicly endorsed him as his successor but was vetoed by ANC elders.